Starting Monday, Aug. 5, bus riders to Research Triangle Park will be able to get free or discounted rides from Uber or Lyft to reach the last stretch of their destination. One transportation expert says this is a sign that public transit is on the way out.
“The partnerships between transit agencies and ride-hailing companies are the last gasp of a dying industry,” Randal O’Toole, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, said. “The only question is when will politicians stop throwing money at the transit industry and let it die.”
RTP Connect is GoTriangle’s new pilot program. In it, the regional transportation agency is partnering with Uber and Lyft to provide subsidized rides in between bus stops and the many offices and other businesses throughout RTP.
GoTriangle will pay as much as $10 for bus riders to take Uber or Lyft to their final destination within RTP. Riders will have to pay the extra cost of rides that extend beyond the RTP zone.
The new pilot program will replace the Go OnDemand program, which allowed people to call or use an app to summon a GoTriangle-operated shuttle to take passengers from the bus stop to their destination.
Even with the subsides to Uber and Lyft, switching to a private-public partnership will save the agency $200,000 in the 2020 fiscal year.
“Switching to RTP Connect will improve the customer experience by increasing possible destinations within RTP, offering competitive trip and wait times, expanding service hours and reducing overall costs, which will allow GoTriangle to invest in other transit priorities,” the GoTriangle website explained.
O’Toole said mass transit ridership has been on the decline. Ride-sharing, an increase in car ownership, and more people deciding to work from home has led to fewer people choosing to take public mass transit.
“In fact, the growth of ride hailing is about three times the rate of the shrinkage of transit ridership, and surveys show that about a third of people who use ride-hailing services would otherwise have taken transit, suggesting that ride-hailing is the principal cost of transit’s decline since 2014,” O’Toole said.
Some studies have indicated a rise in ride-sharing has hit public mass transit ridership directly. Meanwhile, partnerships between ride-sharing companies and public transit have become more popular. Partnerships have popped up in California, Florida, and Massachusetts. A 2018 study from DePaul University found these partnerships are growing as research shows ride-sharing and public transit can be “complementary instead of competitive in nature.”