As part of Uber’s effort to be a strong partner to the cities and states we serve, we believe it’s critical that the private and public sectors work together to develop a plan for how we can collectively address the unique set of mobility challenges facing our communities today. This will require openness, transparency, and close collaboration at all levels of governments.
These four principles highlight the work Uber is doing at the local level — supporting congestion pricing, establishing public transit partnerships, modernizing urban design (parking reform, efficient curbs) — and look to build on these efforts through federal resources.
Moving forward, we will continue our work with both public agencies and private entities to help promote 21st-century infrastructure solutions as our society moves towards a more shared, electric, and automated future.
Principle #1) Fix It First
Uber advocates for an infrastructure initiative that ensures ‘low tech’ road infrastructure is maintained at a world-class level. Preserving a state of good repair of America’s roads, coupled with replacement, is important to the efficiency of ridesharing and is crucial to the rollout out of Uber’s self-driving vehicles and freight products.
Carefully maintained lane striping, road signage, and general maintenance — such as filled potholes — are critical since these are ultimately how our self- driving vehicles ‘see’ roads and infrastructure. And while these basic steps are necessary for economic productivity and highway safety for everyone today, they also represent an investment in the future of transportation.
At present, the federal government is faced with transportation infrastructure funding challenges, and Congress continues to look for mechanisms to address the issue of the Highway Trust Fund’s impending insolvency. The federal motor fuel excise tax (18.3 cents per gallon on gasoline and 24.3 cents per gallon on diesel fuel), the main funding source for federal highway and transit investment in the United States, has not been raised since 1993 and, since that time, has lost more than 40 percent of its purchasing power. Moving forward, the U.S. government will need to enact a permanent revenue solution for the Highway Trust Fund that meets 21st-century technology and needs.
Uber believes that the current funding mechanism needs to be updated to provide reliable long-term funding to address the nation’s infrastructure deficiencies while also adhering to the longstanding user-fee based principle. We are supportive of, and encouraged by, the ongoing conversation about creating new, more effective long-term funding models such as a nationwide mileage-based user fee pilot program. Uber stands ready to partner with the nation’s lawmakers on these efforts.
Proposed Action: Support funding mechanisms that address the challenges of a shared, electric, and automated future. An example, in the longer term, would be establishing a national voluntary vehicle miles traveled (VMT) program instead of, or in addition to, motor fuels taxes, in order to tie each vehicle’s annual payment more directly to road use. In the short-term, Uber supports a voluntary national VMT pilot program (and/or regional pilots) designed to determine the most effective and cost-efficient approach to funding models.
Uber is open to discussions surrounding changes to the gas tax including efforts to index the tax to inflation. However, these potential actions should not preclude the federal government from incentivizing states and municipalities — via funding and other measures — to take the next step of piloting experimental and future-forward funding schemes to ensure long term solvency as our country moves towards a shared, electric, and automated future.
Principle #2) Invest in Public Transit Infrastructure and Expand Public-Private Partnerships
Uber supports strong, dedicated, and sustained funding for transit systems, and we urge Congress to increase the current federal investment levels for public transportation. The Mass Transit Account and other federal transit programs such as the Capital Investment Grants (CIG), Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) programs, and Mobility on Demand (MOD) grants are vital infrastructure investments that spur economic growth throughout our cities and states.
In many communities, mass transit is the backbone of their transportation systems. Increased investment in public transportation is needed to give more people access to affordable transportation and also helps to reduce congestion and pollution. To maximize the return on this investment and give communities more flexibility to develop their own tailored transportation solutions we support a modern regulatory framework that facilitates stronger collaboration between public agencies and private entities. This will ultimately lead to improved mobility for all communities, especially where commuters have limited transit options.
Today, most transit authorities use proprietary fare systems built solely for the transportation industry. Over the years, agencies have implemented new technologies such as contactless smartcards that complement or replace cash, token coins, and magnetic swipe cards. For the most part, however, these cards can be used only for services provided by the transit agency and not for goods and services offered by other merchants.
Transit authorities that use proprietary payment systems today have new options available to them. There are now opportunities to move away from expensive, inflexible proprietary fare systems that require transportation agencies to be their own bankers. By turning payment processing over to the new offerings such as open payment platforms and mobile ticketing technologies, transit authorities can focus more resources on their core business of providing top-quality transportation services.
Proposed Action: Establish a grant program to encourage transit agencies (and regions in cases where multiple transit agencies serve an area) to upgrade to new payment systems or update legacy fareboxes systems to integrate mobile commerce infrastructure (i.e., infrastructure that allows customers to order, pay for, and obtain and/or validate tickets using mobile devices) and accelerate the transition to open payment fare systems.
Updating the National Transit Database
The transit industry is rapidly evolving. Transit agencies are increasingly contracting with ridesharing companies to help facilitate first-and last-mile service to core transit routes and to expand service to the community during time periods when it is not as efficient to run fixed route transit. Although transit agencies are utilizing transportation services accessed via ridesharing companies’ online platforms, this transportation service may not expressly fit into the definition of public transportation as provided for the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and for the reporting purposes to the National Transit Database (NTD). Nor does this service fit neatly into the current model for federal funding afforded to traditional public transportation modes, such as bus, demand response paratransit (including taxi service providers), and rail.
For transit agencies to best integrate traditional fixed route transit services with the cost-effective on-demand transportation services supplied by independent third-party transportation providers (“drivers”) who partner with ridesharing companies, the FTA would need to formally establish this modern type of transportation service as reportable for the purposes of the NTD. Reporting these trips and ridership is significant to transit agencies as it is a more accurate account of the designated recipient’s ridership, and the data in the NTD is used to allocate federal transit funds.
Currently, the statutory definition of public transit is “shared ride, open to the general public.” What differentiates a shared ride taxi from standard ridesharing services is that a shared ride taxi could, in theory, pick up another person along the way, and therefore, is eligible to be included as part of the National Transit Database “funding formula.” Shared ridesharing products such as UberPool fit that definition, however, standard ridesharing rides such as uberX do not, since it is seen as an exclusive ride to an individual passenger and not a shared ride. Even without shared ride technology, the implementation of other ridesharing technologies is still a cost-effective model that, when implemented thoughtfully, improves the transit system overall.
To be clear, Uber is not interested in replacing traditional public transit modes. Rather, we believe ridesharing companies and their many product offerings can play a vital role in helping transit systems perform more efficiently and can assist transit agencies in providing more mobility options to transit riders. That’s why we recently launched our first-ever integration with public transit in the Uber app.
Starting with Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD), Uber riders can now plan their transit journey with real-time information and end-to-end direction all within our application. As Uber continues to partner with public transit agencies around the world, Denver will serve as a paradigm for how we can all work together to improve mobility.
Moving forward, Uber believes modern regulations should reflect the role that ridesharing and other new modalities can play towards a future in which every journey is a shared one using a combination of mobility services.
Proposed Action: Support an update to the National Transit Database (NTD) to clearly include 21st-century modes of transportation such as transportation facilitated through ridesharing company apps, docked and dockless bikeshare service, and dockless scooter service, when conducted in partnership or contract with a local transit agency, as part of the agency metrics recorded for the purposes of the NTD.
Flexibility for Wheelchair Service Equivalency
Due to their technology and business model, ridesharing companies can often facilitate much lower response times via their drivers than a taxi, vanpool, and similar services. However, individual ridesharing companies in all markets may not have in their networks any or a sufficient number of drivers who have chosen to both possess a wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV) and to use the ridesharing company’s smartphone technology to seek and accept ride requests from riders who travel in non-folding, motorized wheelchairs or scooters. As a result, depending on the particular facts in a given location, public entities may conclude that they cannot partner with a ridesharing company and comply with 49 CFR 37.23. Our expanded WAV offerings in the U.S., made possible largely through working with a commercial provider (MV Transportation), mean a broader market footprint, and that we can help enable improved access to accessible transportation for those who haven’t been well served in the past. And as public entities are interested in continued WAV expansion, ridesharing companies are exploring partnerships with local governments to institute per-trip fees for all rides or other funding mechanisms that can then be used to improve the long-term economic feasibility of enabling increased access to WAVs via ridesharing technology.
Ridesharing can significantly lower capital and operating costs for public entities, and can enable improved service for an array of riders who may have difficulty using regular public transit, particularly seniors, people with visual- and auditory disabilities, folding wheelchair users, users of other mobility aids, and other ambulatory individuals. Additionally, thanks in part to ridesharing companies working with commercial providers, there are already five and will soon be at least seven major U.S. markets where riders can reliably get a WAV ride in 15 minutes or less, on average. The existence of a reliable WAV option in the seven cities that represent 50% of our total Uber trips in the U.S. will make public entities more willing to partner.
An example of how new technologies can be leveraged to expand mobility options is the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA) On-Demand Paratransit Pilot Program. Since 2016, the MBTA has partnered with ridesharing companies to offer on-demand paratransit transportation to Boston’s disability community. Over the initial five months, the program provided 10,000 rides covering 45,000 miles in 133 zip codes, all while saving the MBTA $40,000. Today, the program continues to serve Bostonians, having been extended multiple times due to its success.
However, in many communities, paratransit services still require booking a ride as much as a day in advance, are often unreliable, and often mean riders have to wait until many other passengers are picked up and dropped off before they reach their destination. Additionally, there are significant capital and operating costs associated with procuring or retrofitting many of the vehicles required to perform the service, which limits capacity in every community. By providing flexibility to use the limited number of wheelchair accessible vehicles exclusively for riders who require non-folding, motorized wheelchairs, scooters, or other assistive devices, transit agencies can better serve all people with disabilities.
Uber is committed to making accessibility a meaningful part of what we do, and we’re proud to be doing our part to enable improved access to transportation for people with disabilities. We know there is still a long way to go — and that we’re at the beginning, not the end, of this journey. Consequently, to dramatically improve public transportation service to the disability community writ large, we propose adding flexibility to current regulations to provide the appropriate and most efficient service for paratransit riders.
Proposed Action: For the purposes of paratransit, allow transit agencies to contract with ridesharing companies if the transit agency can demonstrate that the response time and reliability for both WAV and non-WAV paratransit rides will improve compared to current times. The transit agency would use historic paratransit response time as a benchmark to establish goals with the ridesharing company and any additional partners to improve response times for paratransit passengers.
Principle #3) Promote More Sustainable Transportation Including Shared Rides
Infrastructure legislation should further advance policies that incentivize more sustainable transportation modes, including shared rides, that help to alleviate gridlock. Shared rides are also an efficient way to extend the reach of existing mass transit infrastructure. Variable road pricing models, carpooling, and robust mass transit systems are proven modern-day solutions to reduce traffic congestion, facilitate economic opportunity, and improve the quality of living in our communities. Simple provisions in federal legislation could further encourage these pilots and policies at the local level.
Encourage Congestion Pricing
Traditionally, cities and states have tried to build their way out of congestion by adding more lanes of the road. Over time, this has been shown to be self-defeating — the more road space is added, the more cars fill the available space. To tackle this issue at its core, the cost of driving ultimately needs to reflect its cost to our cities. And it’s becoming increasingly clear that the most effective way to manage vehicles on the road is through pricing. By charging a fee for all vehicles (e.g., private motorists, delivery vehicles, taxis, and services like Uber), road pricing creates an incentive for everyone to share space more efficiently.
However, such pricing programs also need to consider the effects on the entire community. When implemented without a clear focus on equity, road pricing programs can burden low-income commuters with new costs and deepen existing inequities. Therefore, we are supportive of congestion pricing programs that are designed around the needs of low-income commuters and that are implemented only in areas where there are viable public transit alternatives.
In the long run, Uber believes comprehensive congestion pricing can provide municipalities a stable funding solution for their public transportation systems.
Proposed Action: Authorize a study and incentivize existing grant programs to examine whether and to what extent roadway congestion may be reduced through application of congestion pricing strategies, and the magnitude of the impact of such strategies on driver behavior, traffic volumes, transit ridership, air quality and availability of funds for transportation programs.
Design the Road for Shared-Use
By embracing shared and sustainable modes of transportation such as electric scooters and electric bicycles, cities can be less congested and polluted; with more space for people and parks; and where everyone, wherever they live and whatever their income, has access to affordable, reliable transportation.
We believe city planning should acknowledge and accommodate these new forms of transportation by taking a “Complete Streets approach” to federally-funded transportation projects. This approach ensures that the safety and convenience of all users of a transportation system, including pedestrians, bicyclists, public transit users, children, older individuals, motorists, freight vehicles, and individuals with disabilities, are accommodated throughout the entire planning process. This will be of key importance as we move into a future rapidly transformed by new mobility options.
Proposed Action: Establish best practices for, provide technical guidance on, implementing Complete Streets policies and incentivize states, metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), and local jurisdictions in developing and implementing complete streets-compliant plans, projects, procedures, policies, and training programs.
Encourage the Elimination of Minimum Parking Requirements
In a majority of cities, developers are required to build a minimum number of parking spaces per building or unit, regardless of need or demand. This outdated policy has resulted in significant inefficiencies in our cities as parking now consumes up to a third of valuable urban land, drives up housing costs, and encourages more driving and more vehicle miles traveled, congestion, and pollution. Uber shares cities’ goals of moving more people in fewer, more efficient vehicles; reducing dependency on personal vehicles; and encouraging more efficient alternatives like transit, cycling, walking, and shared rideshare trips. We are not arguing to do away with parking altogether; rather, we believe eliminating minimum parking requirements, especially when applied in transit-oriented development projects, is a market-based solution that encourages more sustainable development at the local level.
Proposed Action: Provide the necessary resources (e.g., technical expertise, funding, best practices, etc.) to establish a program that allows municipalities to examine local parking minimum ordinances and the impact on their communities.
Redesign the Curb
Cities have dedicated vast amounts of their space to on-street parking. Yet as the demand for curb space increases — with the rise of urban delivery, shared mobility services, and eventually, self-driving vehicles — cities are looking for ways to make their curbs safer, more efficient, and more productive.
Uber shares cities’ goals of making it safer, quicker, and easier for riders and drivers to find each other and be safely on their way. Allowing pickups to happen out of traffic where they can be safer and faster is a good move for everyone.
Proposed Action: Establish a program that provides the necessary resources (e.g, technical expertise, funding, etc.) and that allows municipalities to study curb productivity in response to new technologies and to mitigate implications on a municipality’s revenues of shifting curb space use away from parking towards passenger and commercial loading.
Principle #4) Embrace the Future
The transition to new, cutting-edge transportation technologies has the potential to bring transformative economic, safety, and social benefits to our communities. The burgeoning self-driving, electrification, and vertical-takeoff and landing (VTOL) vehicle technologies will usher in a new transportation landscape and help make our communities safer, cleaner, more efficient, and more affordable. Government officials have an opportunity to play a pivotal role in the acceleration of those gains. Empowering pilot programs that plan for the future and promoting safe operational research that utilizes real-world testing will help bring the tremendous safety and mobility benefits of these technologies to the public sooner.
For Self-Driving Vehicles
Uber supports the flexible, facilitative approach the Department of Transportation is taking towards self-driving technology. As a technology company that facilitates the movement of millions of people every day, we share their vision that fully automated vehicles will help to make safer and more affordable transportation available.
Proposed Action: Building on the collaborative approach the Department of Transportation has taken in its Work Zone Data Exchange (WZDx) project, establish a standard data-sharing framework which the states can use to provide developers with access to three kinds of transport data: historical (e.g., average speeds and travel times), real-time (e.g., crashes, closures, changes in construction zones, weather alerts, etc.) and future (e.g., planned constructions and closures).
Proposed Action: Support existing initiatives that streamline the way business is conducted in the freight ecosystem (e.g., removing paper, manual labor, and waiting time), specifically those that improve access to freight and driver capacity while improving transparency around service, cost, and safety. Support improving and modernizing the federal motor carrier safety oversight system.