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Webinar Recording: How Uber and Spare are making every ride possible

How transit agencies can leverage partnerships with TNCs to reduce costs, improve coverage and address the ongoing driver shortage.


Jenna Dhanani

Summary

On November 30th, alongside Uber, we hosted Ross Silvers, ADA Policy and Compliance Officer, and Kim Dubuc, Mobility Services Coordinator, from Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, as well as Maxime Paul, Director of Customer Experience Strategy at Dallas Area Rapid Transit. In this session, we covered how agencies can leverage partnerships with TNCs to reduce operational costs, improve capacity and vehicle coverage as well as address the ongoing driver shortage.

During the question and answer period, we also tackled the intricacies of working with TNCs when it comes to reporting and ADA requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions

Visibility While Partnering with a TNC

Are rides brokered to Uber and subsidized by the agency reportable to NTD?  Are drug & alcohol requirements adhered to?

Chirayu Shah: From a software standpoint, we also have a Fleet Agreements product on Spare designed to adhere to FTA Regulations and provider riders with an opt-in process.

What visibility do you have into individual trips if something goes wrong? For example, if a rider leaves something behind or if they have a poor experience with a driver?

Chirayu Shah: This is a two part question. So first, let's talk about visibility into trips: agencies would have live visibility into Uber trips. If anything goes wrong, you would definitely have access to all the information you need from the Spare platform directly.

To address the second part of the question, if riders are using the rider app, they can  still submit reviews meaning that the reviews for even the Uber trips do come to the spare platform. So you have access to both good and bad reviews. If something is left behind, or if you need further support, then you could reach out to individual providers like Uber and they have a full fledged support process; They could take care and create tickets and communicate with the drivers.

From a NTD and Administrative perspective, do the agencies have complete access to the trip data?

Kim Dubuc & Ross Silvers:  Yes we do have all access to the information.

Integrations

Is there, or can there be any integration with micro-mobility on the platform? For instance, e-bikes or e-scooters?

Chirayu Shah: From the Spare side, if there’s a provider that offers these services, we would take a look at the provider and it would be extremely possible using Spare Open Fleets.

Kelly Zalewski: No, we don't have any micro mobility projects under the Uber transit team, but it’s a very interesting problem for us to look at.

Regulations and Driver Training

FTA regulations can be a bit intimidating when it comes to thinking about implementing TNC partnerships in a paratransit adjacent context — how were you able to ensure that PSTA MOD is in line with FTA regulations?

Kim Dubuc & Ross Silvers: It's about being very open with communication. So it's for us. It's about being very open with our FTA Regional NTD folks and saying, “What's going to work?”,  “What's not going to work?”, “ Can we do this?”, “ Can't we do that?” And it gets granular very fast but we have folks at our organization that work with data to figure out what’s going to work for everyone.

As a paratransit program, one of our pain points with using taxis is the lack of training, courtesy to people with special needs. It's particularly hard for us to enforce training to the drivers due to high turnover among taxi drivers. How can Uber ensure courtesy/sensitivity of the drivers to our clients?

Kelly Zalewski: When drivers are onboarded, they do have to agree to our community guidelines. Then, quarterly, they're sent reminders about their requirements around sensitivity, particularly being required to  transport individuals who are traveling with a service animal. So we recognize that, if we're going to be serving the whole population. We need to make sure that we are an accessible service. There are also tools for getting support and providing feedback should there be any problems on a trip. So whether the rider  can do that themselves via the app or through their call center support. Lastly, we have specialized teams within Uber, so that if there are any sensitive issues, the right teams are thoroughly investigating those, and then taking appropriate action.

Is there any negative feedback from the taxi industry considering that transit is a subsidized service, and this model seems to provide a taxpayer subsidy to Uber/Lyft?

Chirayu Shah: Spare integrates with TNC providers, such as Uber and Lyft, but also integrates directly with taxi platforms, such as MTI and ICabbi, for example. We get access to all the taxi feeds that use that taxi platform to maintain and for their dispatch platform so agencies interested in dispatching with taxis could connect trip demand to any local taxi feeds.

Controlling Costs

How did you control costs once the word gets out? For both agencies

Kim Dubuc & Ross Silvers:  Very recently,  we changed our fares: we charge $3.50 for four  MoD rides per day. Then it goes up to $6 and then it goes up to $10 for the riders responsibility. So that has really curved the people that would go from one side of the Mall to the other, using a Lyft or an Uber.  It seems to have slowed those people down quite a bit, so now it's really the true MOD  riders that are using our service.

Maxime Paul: Yeah, I think one of the big things we've done is to make sure that the rides are going somewhere to transit to get onto transit get onto a train or a  bus. We're actually trying to get more people to say, “yeah, I would rather have  a have a faster ride or or a non dedicated vehicle”. We're trying to make sure that people could that use that, because it’ll reduce our cost dramatically.

Rider Experience

Have riders shared any positive/negative feedback on the transition to a same-day-service mentality?

Maxime Paul: I always consider things from an education lens first and it is a multi prong effort. We go to community meetings and talk to people about it, we offer information online and host webinars. People wanted to learn more, and we allowed the link so they can understand the process. We allowed them to come to our office to learn more about it and then we had a period when, we first started, to offer free rides. We just let people try it for free and understand it, and when they took it they understood the experience and how it was valuable to them. We got a lot of people saying, “Hey, I want to tell somebody else about this”, and that's how it started growing.

Can you explain the method used to collect fares on the MOD?

Kim Dubuc & Ross Silvers: We do it all and it's all credit or debit for all of our MoD services. We have it set up right in Spare. The rider puts in their card  information and we securely save it on the back end and nobody can see that information.

Spare gives us a great report at the end of the month of who used credit card and and who used cash so we can see all of that in our reporting at the end of the month. This system charges ride by ride, so there are fewer disputes going on from a financial perspective.

Accessibility

How do visually impaired clients contact Uber?

Kelly Zalewski: The Uber app is compatible with screen readers and voiceover tools in Apple and Android devices.

Operations

Has anyone implemented this technology in a union environment?

Maxime Paul: We do have contracts for our dedicated drivers, but they're not a union. I think it's been fine because they're allotted a minimum amount of rides but we've been so over capacity that the drivers always get their allocated share of rides, so far. We've had to think about that as well: “Is the vendor going to be upset or frustrated about getting less rides because of this access to capacity with Uber rides?”