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Uber pushes into public transit with new app partnership

San Francisco-based Uber’s app allows passengers to order on-demand rides from their smartphones.

The online ride-hailing service Uber. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN

SAN FRANCISCO - Transportation technology company TransLoc announced on Monday a partnership with Uber, marking a significant advancement in the ride-hailing company's effort to ally itself with public transit agencies.

TransLoc, which builds technology products for public transit passengers and agencies, will integrate Uber into the TransLoc Rider app, a smartphone application that provides real-time bus tracking and route planning.

San Francisco-based Uber's app allows passengers to order on-demand rides from their smartphones.

The integration will allow passengers to plan trips that combine public transportation with Uber rides and walking, TransLoc officials said. The idea is to offer Uber as a way for passengers to get from home to a transit stop, and from transit stops to their destinations.

Public transit agencies lose many potential riders because they lack options getting to or from the bus or train stop, TransLoc said.

"Such partnerships will enhance the attractiveness of public transportation," Michael Melaniphy, president and chief executive of the American Public Transportation Association, said in a statement.

Uber and ride-hailing competitor Lyft have been working to find allies among public transit agencies, recognising that if they are to be truly cheaper than car ownership as each company has touted it is, they must be used in combination with public transit.

A transportation study by the statistical analysis media site FiveThirtyEight showed that completing 85 percent of trips on public transit and 15 percent with Uber roughly equaled the cost of car ownership.

Uber and Lyft have both made progress in befriending public transit agencies. Uber has partnerships in Dallas, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Minneapolis.

Lyft also has a partnership with Dallas, and recently launched the "Friends with Transit" campaign to demonstrate the number of passengers Lyft brings to and from transit stations.

Emily Castor, director of transportation policy at Lyft, said in an interview the company had "a pipeline of dozens of public transit agencies" that are discussing partnerships with the ride service. They include the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, which is talking to Lyft about improving its paratransit services.

Both companies have been criticised, however, for not opening up their data to cities and not providing transit agencies with information that would help officials gauge the services' impact on transportation.

The TransLoc and Uber integration will debut as a pilot program in mid-February in Memphis, Tennessee, and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.

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