SaintPetersBlog, Janelle Irwin
Ride sharing company Uber is partnering with the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority to bridge the so-called “first-mile, last-mile” problem. Bus riders in Pinellas Park can now use the Uber ride-sharing app to hail a ride from their home or other destination to a bus stop.
The program is limited to Pinellas Park and covers half of the Uber trip from point A to point B up to $3 and it can only be used to take riders to designated bus stops within the city.
“By helping to bridge the gap on the first and last mile for commuters, this innovative public-private partnership will compliment and extend the reach of the existing transportation infrastructure in the region and open up more opportunities in the community,” said Uber Tampa Bay general manager Christine Mitchell.
The partnership is an innovative new idea aimed at getting people in neighborhoods without bus stops near where people live to those stops on major corridors like U.S. 19.
“We can’t get to every neighborhood,” said PSTA CEO Brad Miller said during a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Pinellas Park Transit Center behind Pinellas Park Mall.
Increasing reach into neighborhoods would be costly for PSTA as it would have to increase routes.
“It’s the best use of funds,” said past PSTA board chairman and Clearwater City Council member Bill Joneson. “By using this we hope that we will come up with something that is very flexible.”
The program is structured as a temporary six-month pilot program. After six months, Miller said the agency will take a look at how much riders were using the program and whether or not it was successful. He hopes that from there, the agency can expand into other areas.
The program isn’t just limited to Uber rides. PSTA is also partnering with United Taxi to offer discounted rides to and from bus stops. Taxi users will receive the same half-priced rate up to $3 as those who choose to use Uber.
United Taxi offers a web-based app similar to Uber where riders can hail a cab from their smart phone. But United differs in that customers can chose to use the app or call and they can pay with cash or credit. Uber limits users to a mobile app and paying by credit card.
“Not everyone has a smart phone,” said Nick Cambas, owner of United Taxi.
That company is already partnering with PSTA for a similar program in East Lake in North Pinellas County.
In order to take advantage of the new partnership bus riders can request a ride through a downloadable app from either Uber or United Taxi. Uber requires enrollment either through the app or online and files a payment method into the app that is the sole source of paying for rides. United Taxi users can use that company’s app as well or they can call United directly at 727-535-0000.
Florida Senator Jeff Brandes was not on hand for the ribbon-cutting, but he has been a vocal supporter of public-private partnerships to aid in increasing multi-modal transit options for residents.
“PSTA is showing true leadership by entering into an innovative partnership that is among the first of its kind in the nation,” Brandes said. “This technology offers a great opportunity to mass transit providers and expands access transit for Pinellas families. I hope that other providers in our region and throughout the state will follow the lead of PSTA and embrace this technology that Floridians have come to expect in their communities.”