Public transit finds allies in private ride-hailing services

If you can’t beat them, maybe join them? That’s what some cities in the United States have done, as ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft, have success in their communities. In 2014, when voters in St. Petersburg, Fla., solidly turned down a proposal to add a 1 cent sales tax levy to pay for badly needed public transit, officials knew they had a big problem. Without those funds, a new light-rail project and bus improvement plan were dead, and at least five bus routes would have to be slashed. “We knew we had to figure out how to do more with less,” said Ashlie Handy, a spokeswoman for the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority. Their answer was partnering with Uber and local taxis to subsidize rides to get passengers, on eventually only two slashed routes, to another bus stop, up to $3 a ride. It has worked so well, that the transit authority is planning on expanding this program across the entire county, covering up to $5 a ride.

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