Posted by David Plouffe, Chief Advisor & Member of the Board of Directors
Uber held our first Public Policy Advisory Board meeting earlier this week. We had vibrant discussions about every aspect of our business and the unique challenges and opportunities Uber faces around the world. We’re already benefitting greatly from the wisdom and savvy of our board members:
- Melody Barnes
Vice Provost for Global Student Leadership Initiatives at New York University and former Director of the Domestic Policy Council at the White House
- Roberto Daniño
Former Prime Minister of Peru
- Dr. Allan Fels
Professor at Melbourne, Monash and Oxford Universities and former Chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
- Neelie Kroes
Netherlands Special Envoy for Startups and former Vice President of the European Commission
- Ray LaHood
Former U.S. Secretary of Transportation
- Dr. Gesner Oliveira
Former President of the Brazilian Administrative Council for Economic Defense (CADE)
- Her Royal Highness Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud
Founder and CEO, Alf Khair
- Adil Zainulbhai
Chairman of the Quality Council of India and former chairman of McKinsey India
For decades, transportation policy has played second fiddle to the likes of the economy, education and healthcare. Yet transportation is key to all these areas of public policy. According to a long-term study by Harvard University, the single strongest factor in determining someone’s economic life chances is not the local crime rate or their education but how long it takes to get to school or work.
This is increasingly true as cities grow. Today one in two people live in a city. By 2050, it will be two in three. That’s why many cities are grappling with record levels of congestion and pollution. Of course public transportation is part of the solution. But even in New York, with a great subway system, over 2.7 million cars drive into Manhattan every day. That’s because public transit can never get to everyone’s door, even with billions of dollars of additional investment.
So cars will need to be part of the solution. This is where new technology can help. Smartphone apps like Uber can significantly improve transportation in cities at no extra cost to the taxpayer.
- A complement to public transit: It’s been shown that people who use ridesharing are more likely to use public transit. By picking up where mass transit drops off, Uber extends the reach of public transportation systems, often in the most underserved parts of the city.
- Providing transportation in traditionally underserved areas: For instance around 20 percent of Uber trips in London start or end in an area outside the city center and not near the subway. In New York, a third of Uber trips start in the outer boroughs compared to 14 percent of taxi trips.
- Reduced costs and congestion through carpooling: By connecting people headed the same way at the same time, smartphones have made carpooling a reality. In Los Angeles, for example, over 100,000 people now use uberPOOL each week. It’s cheaper for passengers and has helped reduce the number of miles driven in the city by over 12.8 million.
Longer term, we’re optimistic that apps like Uber can offer a real alternative to individual car ownership and usage, whether you’re in San Diego or Shenzhen. After all, if you can press a button and get an affordable, stress-free ride across town in minutes you’ll use your car less and maybe move away from car ownership altogether.
And ridesharing apps are not just about pushing a button and getting a ride — they’re also about pushing a button and getting work. In France, 20 percent of drivers using Uber were unemployed beforehand. In Egypt, that number is 40 percent. In Mexico City, 50 percent.
Just a few years ago only one place (California) had a regulatory framework for ridesharing. Today more than 70 jurisdictions in the U.S. do, and many other places around the globe are following suit, including in Australia, Canada, India, the Philippines and Mexico. (See the map below.)
As ridesharing continues to grow, we look forward to the Board’s candid advice and insights. Of course, Uber has a reputation for getting straight to the point (sometimes a little too quickly) — and we want their feedback to be equally direct!