The Urban Information Lab at the University of Texas recently found that about 4 million people, or 7% of the population, in 52 major United States cities live in a transit desert. The same study defines a transit desert as an area that is not equipped with enough transit to meet people's travel needs. In the absence of transit, Americans rely on private automobiles to fill in the gaps or take them to their destination. It comes as no surprise that a majority of Uber's top largest markets are within America's borders. With the passage of Proposition 22 and the growing concerns with how large ridesharing apps treat employees and riders, Cities and drivers are exploring alternatives to the larger companies such as Uber and Lyft.
In Japan, New York, Zurich and Miami, City leaders have taken ridesharing into their own hands through partnerships with an app called Via. Via is a ride-sharing app with a focus on "public transit service [rather] than as a ride-hail equivalent." Via also offers flexibility and control to Cities which may include free or reduced price rides for students or senior residents.
With Uber and Lyft taking 25-40% of driver's ride fare in fees, providing no benefits or protections to their employees under laws like Proposition 22 and up-charging residents based on location, drivers and riders are beginning to see the weaknesses in these companies as a solution to transportation in Cities. The Drivers Cooperative is a New York based coalition of ride share drivers who are working together to create an app that will rival Uber and Lyft but be driver owned and operated. The proposal has a few key goals to create a more equitable environment for drivers, riders and cities:
Immediately boost driver income by returning profits to drivers and establish basic employment rights for workers in the sector.
Provide a second chance to drivers who were “deactivated” by Uber and Lyft without due process based on specious and often racially-biased customer complaints.
Save drivers money through a credit union partnership that allows drivers to escape predatory vehicle financing.
Long term, fight for a just, green transition to electric vehicles through a Green New Deal for the For-Hire Vehicle Industry.
The Cooperative will also offer lower ride costs and take only 15% in fees from drivers fare. The Cooperative has already onboarded over 1,000 drivers in New York and has received grant money and partnerships from various community organization. They are raising money to hire and train drivers and build the strength of the Cooperative.
- Cooperative Interview with NPR: https://www.npr.org/2020/12/05/943454048/new-app-aims-to-compete-with-uber-lyft-while-giving-new-york-drivers-a-living-wa
- The Cooperative Project: https://ioby.org/project/help-nyc-drivers-launch-platform-cooperative
Amanda Luchun is a planner in Union County, New Jersey. She is a graduate of Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University with a Masters in City and Regional Planning. Her interests include land use planning, environmental planning and community development.