Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Canada Transportation

Canadian Town Picks Uber For Public Transit (cnet.com) 200

Stephen Shankland reports via CNET: Innisfil, population 32,727 as of 2014, concluded in a March council meeting that subsidizing the car-hailing service was a better deal than paying for a bus line. The city plans to pay 100,000 Canadian dollars (about $75,000) for a first stage of the program and CA$125,000 for a second round about 6 to 9 months in. That compares to CA$270,000 annually for one bus and CA$610,000 for two, the town said. The town evaluated on-demand transit proposals as an alternative to buses. "Uber emerged as the only company with an app-based platform (i.e. UberPool) that would facilitate ridesharing and the matching of two or more passengers on trips across the entire town," the town said in its explanation of the move. Innisfil will subsidize Uber trips so citizens pay between CA$3 and CA$5 themselves, depending on the destination, the town said. "You can't have taxpayers pay for a transit system which they cannot use," Innisfil Mayor Gord Wauchope told The Toronto Star. "And this was a transit system that people can get from anywhere in the town of Innisfil, and use it for a reasonable price."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Canadian Town Picks Uber For Public Transit

Comments Filter:
  • Can't use (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jabberw0k ( 62554 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2017 @09:05AM (#54177061) Homepage Journal
    What telephone number do I dial to hail an "Uber" ? I do not have a so-called "smart" so-called "telephone".
    • Is the default assumption that government is run by morons who don't have two brain cells to rub together, and therefore plan public transit without making provisions for the people who need public transit the most?

      While, as a libertarian, I think that would be a pretty awesome assumption, it's also usually wrong.

    • Re:Can't use (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kaka.mala.vachva ( 1164605 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2017 @09:34AM (#54177215)
      A one person call center that receives requests and books rides for people? Free public phones/tablets at multiple locations to allow users to call and request a cab? There are multiple ways to solve that - for a town of 32k people, this may indeed work out well. In my town of 56k people, here in California, public transport is not useful - the closest bus stop is 3/4 mile away from my place (and I live close to down town). We use Uber for any travel where we cannot/don't want to take our car - a subsidized Uber would be really useful.
      • The concept might make a lot of sense, but the implementation weirds me out.

        A Canadian town will subsidise an American corporation to provide a public service. I can appreciate that the costs to provide public transit to such a small town might be prohibitively high but you could have run your own public taxi service instead and get some return on the tax money being spent.

        • by tepples ( 727027 )

          A Canadian town will subsidise an American corporation to provide a public service.

          Is it any different from agencies of governments outside the United States standardizing on the Windows operating system?

          you could have run your own public taxi service instead and get some return on the tax money being spent.

          Not if outsourcing the service is less expensive.

        • A Canadian town will subsidise an American corporation to provide a public service.

          Uber is bleeding cash and losing billions annually. The subsidies are flowing the other way.

        • Re:Can't use (Score:4, Insightful)

          by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <slashdot@worf.nCOUGARet minus cat> on Wednesday April 05, 2017 @12:31PM (#54178695)

          The concept might make a lot of sense, but the implementation weirds me out.

          A Canadian town will subsidise an American corporation to provide a public service. I can appreciate that the costs to provide public transit to such a small town might be prohibitively high but you could have run your own public taxi service instead and get some return on the tax money being spent.

          Well, most public transportation companies are really private companies that are owned by the taxpayers. Or in some places, it's a few private companies contracted to provide service (especially local interurban buses).

          So it's not really that unusual, other than it's Uber. Here they're relying more on the experience of Uber to be able to provide the right amount of service - otherwise if they had to provide their own taxi service, then they lack all the analytics and information needed to properly provide service. (Plus, unlike a taxi service, UberPool does allow pickup/dropoff of other people going the same way).

        • by jjo ( 62046 )
          In Canada, Uber is a Canadian corporation, registered in Canada, paying Canadian taxes, and employing Canadians. That Canadian corporation has a relationship with Uber in the US, but that does not mean it doesn't pay taxes or employ people in Canada.
      • My town has Downtowner, a "free" advertising supported 6-seat electric golf cart shuttle. Basically the drivers are paid with tips. It seems like an easy system to subsidize, and more effective than additional busses.

        The service only supports an area with ~10,000 people, but a high concentration of businesses and tourists. It is limited in service area by safety regulations (can only be on roads with a speed limit under 35mph), but it will be interesting to see how well it does. On paper, it seems like
    • In India one of the menu options I had for Uber was, "book uber by text message". Did not use it, because I had a smart phone. But they are working on some kind of accommodation to the Luddites.
    • To take advantage of all the potential benefits to transportation and logistics offered by portable GPS devices with wireless connectivity, you've got to use a portable GPS device with wireless connectivity.* I know; go figure.

      *Personally, I can relate; I'm forced to carry one of these around (for a whole slew of reasons) and I'm definitely growing weary of it.

    • by EvilSS ( 557649 )

      What telephone number do I dial to hail an "Uber" ? I do not have a so-called "smart" so-called "telephone".

      It explains it in the FAQ linked in the summary you were to lazy to click.

    • If you don't have a smart phone, they have kiosks:

      For those who don’t have smartphones, Uber will provide iPads in locations across town, including the town hall, recreation centre, library and high school.

    • What telephone number do I dial to hail an "Uber" ? I do not have a so-called "smart" so-called "telephone".

      Betcha some local coffee shops will go into the business of summoning rides for their customers.

    • by boskone ( 234014 )

      serious question. how much ass wiping and spoon feeding do we need to deliver with a nearly free entitlement? seriously.

      it's not good enough to provide subsidized transit to people, we also have to hand deliver the means to order it? no amount of responsibility on the gift-receiver to figure something out on their own?

    • Irrelevant. Hobos all have smart phones now. Are you more messed up than a hobo? If so, please don't get in the car. You'll ruin it.

      If you seriously don't have a smart phone I will give you an old iphone 4 and help set you up with a $12/month plan with minutes/data/sms. Or you can buy a decent low end smartphone for well under $50
      • > If you seriously don't have a smart phone I will give you an old iphone
        > 4 and help set you up with a $12/month plan with minutes/data/sms.
        > Or you can buy a decent low end smartphone for well under $50

        Used smartphones are cheap. Here in Canada, our wallets get raped for smartphone plans. *DISCOUNT CARRIERS* are $30 per month if you want 100 MEGAbytes of data; $40 to $45 per month if you want 3-to-5 gigabytes of data. And you need data to download the app and actually use it.

  • Innisfil will subsidize Uber trips so citizens pay between CA$3 and CA$5 themselves, depending on the destination, the town said.

    Isn't CA$3 to CA$5 per ride more expensive than bus rides?

    Uber may be better for the city, but it doesn't sound like it will be better for the consumer.

    • Depends. What was the baseline cost of riding the city bus? If it was anywhere close to that amount, the net result is faster travel for the same user cost, with a massively lower cost to the city.

      If it takes off, this may create a stream of side income for a lot of people with working used cars - instead of a bus factory far, far away.

      • In Montreal the most expensive way to pay for a fare costs 3.25 $ for a bus+metro trip that can last up to 2 hours, and on top of that there's child, student, or senior rebates.

        • That is just the per-ride cost. What about the tax cost that the service has?

        • >bus+metro trip that can last up to 2 hours
          How much more would a poor person pay to trim that 2 hour ride to, say 30 minutes? Subsidized Uber sounds like a perfect answer.

          Time has value, especially to those working an hourly wage.

      • by tepples ( 727027 )

        What was the baseline cost of riding the city bus?

        City buses in Fort Wayne, Indiana, charge 3 USD for an all-day pass. (Source: fwcitilink.com) Is this price abnormally low by the standards of the rest of anglophone North America?

        • by b0bby ( 201198 )

          That seems a little low. Also, it is nowhere near the cost of providing the service. According to this badly scanned pdf (https://www.fwcitilink.com/pdfs/Citilink-2015-Annual-Report.pdf) fare revenue for that system is $1.4M, total expenses $12.6M. With 2M passenger boardings, that comes out to an actual cost of ~$6 per ride. Now, the benefits of having a public transportation system are many; I'm just pointing out that most fares have no relationship to the cost of the service.

    • Not really no. In my city I think the bus is up to $3.25.
    • Innisfil will subsidize Uber trips so citizens pay between CA$3 and CA$5 themselves, depending on the destination, the town said.

      Isn't CA$3 to CA$5 per ride more expensive than bus rides? Uber may be better for the city, but it doesn't sound like it will be better for the consumer.

      Yes, that it less than the cost of the fare and subsidy for a bus ride.

    • by martinX ( 672498 )

      In Brisbane, Australia, bus trips would be around the A$5 mark. However, the fares are only about of the running cost of the service, and don't even come close to covering the capital costs. The subsidies come from the city council and the state government. Well, ultimately the ratepayers but you know what I mean.

    • by alexo ( 9335 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2017 @09:46AM (#54177289) Journal

      The fares for the neighbouring city of Barrie [barrie.ca] are $3 for a single zone and $6 for two zones on route 90.

      For York Region (just south of Innisfil), the regular fare is $3-4.50 [www.yrt.ca].
      In Toronto the regular fare is $3.25 nominal, $3 if paid by token or card [www.ttc.ca].

    • Bus rides cost whatever the city decides they cost. Usually, bus fare is subsidized and the system runs at a loss.

    • Yes, but the entire system is more expensive than bus rides. Transit is meant to be efficient, a system that essentially requires suburban infrastructure (including, essentially, a ban on walkable development) is never going to be efficient - and so will never be priced reasonably.

      Add that to the fact they're hitching their wagon to a company heading towards bankruptcy, and, well, you have to wonder...

    • In Baltimore, it's US $3.60 for a round-trip, US $1.80 for a one-way, and US $3.95 for a day pass on all public transit.

      Here's the thing: generally, public transit is slow and limited. The light rail is on a rail, and takes three times as long as driving if you include the 15-45 minute wait (sometimes trains come 40 minutes in between--and, hell, sometimes they alternate so every other train goes all the way, so the next train may stop short of your destination and require you to get off and wait anoth

      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        So Canada thinks they can spend $75,000 per year of money they take out of your income so you can further pay $3.50 for a one-way trip that takes 20 minutes, instead of paying $20 for that same trip. Their alternative is spending several billions for a bus system or hundreds of billions for a rail system with long transit times. Seems legit.

        Well public transit is usually slow and limited because one driver can transport many passengers. What's the efficiency of Uber over, well, Uber? Basically it seems like a scheme to pay taxes to pay Uber instead of paying Uber to provide the exact same taxi service. Unless it's used as some quasi-bus service, I know we have that certain rural areas here in Norway. Essentially you can order transport to/from where the regular public transport ends in advance and you get that at a heavily discounted/subsidize

        • Well public transit is usually slow and limited because one driver can transport many passengers. What's the efficiency of Uber over, well, Uber?

          Well, hold on, my original argument spoke of time spent on the bus or rail system.

          A single light rail ride here ranges from having a car containing 3 passengers to three cars containing 40 passengers. Obviously, the light rail using a driver to move 3 passengers is slow, clunky, and inefficient: it takes 49 minutes of driver time to move those 3 people, when the driver could spend those 49 minutes moving 120 passengers.

          What happens when we include the passengers, though?

          A 3-passenger, 49-minute trip

    • by c ( 8461 )

      Isn't CA$3 to CA$5 per ride more expensive than bus rides?

      It varies. In the towns around my area, $2-$3 is typical. A bus ride in Toronto costs at least $3/ride for an adult.

      But keep in mind that this is closer to a cab ride than a bus ride...

  • population (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 05, 2017 @09:36AM (#54177227)

    Innisfil, population 32,727 as of 2014

    Is anybody else weirdly disappointed that the town does not have 41 more people?

    • by fisted ( 2295862 )

      We'll be there in 2048.

    • by clovis ( 4684 )

      Innisfil, population 32,727 as of 2014

      Is anybody else weirdly disappointed that the town does not have 41 more people?

      You just restored my faith in Slashdot.

      • Innisfil, population 32,727 as of 2014

        Is anybody else weirdly disappointed that the town does not have 41 more people?

        You just restored my faith in Slashdot.

        This needs to be modded up.

        LOL

  • by Baron_Yam ( 643147 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2017 @09:40AM (#54177241)

    Great for the town budget now, but lousy for long term social stability. They're encouraging part-time under-employment.

    It would have been better to launch a town-owned cab company. Probably with somewhat worse service, but with full employment for a couple of people. (Innisfil only has a population of 36K). And with city-owned, electric vehicles.

    Even better would have been to escalate this to the county level, and let Simcoe build a region-wide transit system based on the taxi model. By scaling up they could have some inter-city links and a few handicap/accessible vans. Simcoe county is about 5K square kilometers and has four or five decent-sized urban centers in it.

    • It's a good filler until self-driving cars are approved.
    • With a "guaranteed source" of ridership, this should be good for the Uber drivers.

      Next, they need to unionize to ensure that they are making a living wage after the cost of operating their vehicles.

      As it stands, many Uber drivers are giving away the cost of operating their vehicle for free - which is how their cars are so nice compared to typical taxis.

    • by idji ( 984038 )
      my village of 2000 has an electric car. users pay 100€ per year, drivers also pay, but the drivers get to use the car on the weekend.
    • It would depend on what your goal was:

      Social stability for a small fixed number of full-time taxi drivers, lack of reliability for customers including the elderly and disabled, and more drunk driving fatalities and the social instability those fatalities create in those families left behind.

      OR

      A more elastic workforce, elastic capacity (with UberPool or LyftLine), cheaper pricing, and more reliable service, that responds to a market that is already inherently elastic and variable where everybody calls an Ube

  • Good idea, except (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fred6666 ( 4718031 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2017 @09:43AM (#54177277)

    Good idea, except that they will be giving 20% of that money to Uber. Have they used their own application, they could end up saving a lot.

    • Cost (to the town) for developing that app probably is higher than 10 years of Uber's 20% fees. Cost of maintaining the app could conceivably be higher than the ongoing 20% fee.

      Unless the town has a resident programmer who gives his time away for free, like Uber drivers with their cars.

    • Have they used their own application, they could end up saving a lot.

      Savings all sound good when you look at them in isolation. Cost of development is non-trivial. Cost of distribution is non-trivial. Cost of maintenance is non-trivial.

      Giving a small percentage to someone who's very good at those things is often cheaper than doing them yourself.

      • Did they factor the cost of being vendor locked-in to Uber? I don't think so.
        Sounds like a good use case for an open source application. Development costs could be shared among different cities.

        • Did they factor the cost of being vendor locked-in to Uber? I don't think so.

          I'm sure they didn't give it any thought and the peanut gallery and armchair businessmen on Slashdot know they just got it wrong.

          I have a better one for you:
          a) what is the exact monetary cost of vendor lock in?
          b) what is the exact wording of the contract given you seem to know so much about this specific deal?

          Every deal has risk, including the deal of employing your own people / contractors to develop your own app. Because we all know governments are really efficient at spending money developing their own I

          • So your logic is that since we can't calculate the exact value of the vendor lock-in, let's use $0 as an estimate.
            I never said the federal government should be involved. They could however not use a mobile phone software if it's too expensive. 20% is very expensive.

    • on all those rides. That's why this works. So long as they can leverage Uber's loses to their gains this is going to be a good deal. The real question is will Uber burrow in like a tick when the prices start rising and screw everyone over.
    • Cost overruns aside, there's also the network effect: if most carpoolers are on UberPool + Lyft Line, the city doing its own pool would further split the riders up, and then they'd have to advertise the app, encourage people to download it even if they don't trust the government, make them set up a whole new account and a whole new payment profile...

      Or just let them do what they're already doing, but for much cheaper.

      Sometimes cities can be powerful ideologues that help guide future ethics. But other times

      • What you call network effect should be called vendor lock-in. The more people are using Uber, more they will be able to raise fees and the city will be in a shitty situation.
        Plus I'd be really pissed off as a Uber competitor (Lift or regular cab) if my taxes subsidized my competitor without even an open bid process. Sounds like a good plan to get sued.

  • by edbob ( 960004 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2017 @09:53AM (#54177335)
    In the U.S., a city that size likely would not have any public transit save school buses or the senior trolley. The only exception would be if it were a suburb of a larger city in which case the city's buses would extend out to the suburb. I am not sure if Innisfil is some isolated community or near a larger city, but either way this seems like a strange solution. It also seems strange that two buses are more than double the cost of one.
    • > I am not sure if Innisfil is some isolated community or near a larger city

      Innisfil (36k people), and it's about 10 min south of Barrie (140k people).

      As someone from a city that - last time I checked 30 years ago - had 3x the population of Barrie, I don't know if either of those places are large enough to support a proper transit system.

      Besides, Barrie is a bedroom community full of people who commute to Toronto for work. I'm pretty sure 99.9% of people there have their own car.

      • by edbob ( 960004 )
        A city the size of Barrie would probably have a smattering of bus routes (at least in the Midwestern U.S.) where the buses run so infrequently that they are only used by the most desperate. I went to college in such a city and to use the bus to get from the school to the mall on the north side of town was an exercise in futility.
      • Elliot Lake has only 10,000 people and has a bus service with 4 routes that costs $2.50 a ride or $62 a month. The routes run Monday-Saturday, once an hour from 7 AM to 6 PM, and 9PM on Thursday and Friday. The bus routes cover the majority of the town, especially those with apartment buildings which would be more likely to require buses, as well as the commercial areas.

  • Seems like Innisfil tailored the contract for Uber. Does Lyft work in Canada?
    Anyway, since Uber drivers bear almost all of the costs how will Uber fulfill the contract if drivers can not profit?
    Who do you sue when the Uber driver is exhausted from doing 20 fares that day and has an accident and his insurance refuses to cover anything since they found out he was operating the vehicle as a taxi.
    I suppose it ought to be Innisfil for picking this evil company.

  • Access to TaxPayer funds. That is the holy grail. That is the only thing that justfies the lofty valuation of these companies.
    • If the service was via busses, they could likely only generate $500k/year maximum in fares, more likely $2-300k, and not really provide a high quality of service. They might even need to make it free to generate ridership. With Uber, they provide a higher quality of service, minimize risk, and maximize long term flexibility.

      If nothing else, they will have data to determine if their money is being spent effectively.
  • Uber as I recall, requires a smart phone. The initial cost may be less but there are who other costs: Privacy (Uber gets all that public data for sale..mmm..mmm..), and it forces anyone who doesn't have money for a car to buy a cell phone. If you are in a lower income bracket, that may be impossible (and don't forget there are monthly bills as well as phone purchase prices, whether contract or from ebay). Oh, and don't forget, the city will basically be a ransom to Uber because if they pull out, all of a su
  • so will any uber driver have full insurance? in that town and not ubers on / off one?

    WIll the town do safety and background checks?

  • by Dissenter ( 16782 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2017 @11:03AM (#54177839)

    I have to say, I'm unbelievably happy to see this. The effects of a program like this are far greater reaching than the article mentions. First of all, it creates income opportunities for more people than just the couple of drivers of a bus. Second it eliminates the need for the town to cover the maintenance costs for large investments like that, but drives more opportunities for local automotive maintenance businesses (usually smaller family owned establishments). Third, they are putting money into the service, not buying an expensive "thing". What will they do with a bus in 5-6 years when it's worn out and needs to be replaced? Buying large items like that doesn't solve the need, but subsidising a service industry that does solve the need it really smart.

    In the current economy where cities are constantly fighting against service based businesses like Uber, AirBnB and others that don't pay their premiums for cab medallions and hotel licenses, this is a real win, not only for the local population, but for local businesses to improve their individual opportunities. I'm not in the industry, but so far as I can tell, this is an all around win that doesn't require the local government to establish more rules and regulation, more people to enforce those rules and more time to be wasted in council meetings discussing all of the "what-if" scenarios. For those, like me, that favor smaller government that still works for the people, this is a great example that I hope to see replicated all over.

    I'll use my personal "commute" as an example of how this works with, not against, other larger public transit systems.
    My typical work day is as follows:
    1. Drive to my local train station (about 4 miles from home so let's say $2 in gas and averaged maintenance costs).
    2. Pay $1.50 to park at the train station (large lot with about 300 spaces for commuters).
    3. Take a train to the city $200 monthly (I'm in the suburbs).
    4. Take the train back to my local station.
    5. Drive home (another $2 in gas/maintenance).

    The public transportation in the large municipal area where I live is very good, but locally in my town, there are no bus options for getting to the train.

    IF we implemented something like this in our town, I would pay my $4 a day to an Uber driver that would drive me too and from the train station. Now, maybe that doesn't save me any money, but it doesn't cost anything more. The local town, on the other hand, can take that huge space for parking, where the cost of maintaining the lot is barely covered by the parking fees, and create a great new "downtown" business space where a coffee shop and other commuter conveniences would be right at the train station.

    Here are the big wins in my mind:
    New local businesses generate more local tax revenues for an overall increase in local government revenues.
    Environmental improvements with fewer greenhouse emissions from cars.
    Less traffic in the downtown suburb.
    Local folks that are looking for a "side hustle" to make ends meet have another opportunity!
    Here's the really interesting thing. My wife and I probably only need one car! That's at least $5,000 a year back in my pocket.

    Honestly, I don't see the downside in suburban areas like this. Would it work in a larger metropolitan city? Probably not since busses and subways really do a good job to alleviate the traffic that would be caused by a bunch of extra cars that only hold 3-4 people at a time, but I really think that more smaller towns, like mine, can benefit from this in a big way.

    • How many Uber drivers would be required to get everybody to that train station who is parking there? And they probably all want to be there at about 8AM so they can get to work on time. You'd basically need as many Uber drivers as there are people parking in that lot every day.

  • So how well does Uber handle wheelchairs?

  • A lot of municipalities also have (somewhat) on-demand or scheduled service available for seniors and the disabled and I'd expect this same kind of thing to start happening for some of those. I'm pretty sure my town (Chicago suburbs) maintains at least two small buses for this purpose along with maintenance, drivers, staffing for scheduling, etc. and I think for most things you have to schedule a day in advance and the hours are limited.

    Subsidizing Uber or Lyft to provide those services instead might save t
  • I actually love Uber, but this is a *terrible* move. Two of the greatest advantages of public transit: traffic reduction and reduced carbon emissions, will not be realised with this scheme. Car sharing is a much better idea, so that hundreds of Uber vehicles aren't just randomly driving around all the time pumping CO2 into the air. It would also be more convenient and far less expensive not having to pay drivers.

    Once automated vehicles are a reality, this would be a great solution, but we're a long way a

Gravity is a myth, the Earth sucks.

Working...