HART has been pushing the idea that car hailing services like Uber are good for transit because they can close the last-mile gap between a rider's bus stop and their final destination. Those kind of pro-partnership tweets by HART drew me to look more closely at how Uber operates in such a capacity.
Turns out it's a use case idea Uber itself has been calling out perhaps as a way to soften its existence in cities where their presence has been contentious. In cities like Tampa, for example. But even so, I wondered, Uber is just a cab company in function so why does it only now make sense to form such a loud and deliberate partnership with one? Hasn't Tampa had at least two flourishing taxicab companies for decades upon decades?
The Atlantic City Lab’s Uber and Public Transit Are Trying to Get Along apparently wondered the same thing and asked the DART (the agency operating DART light rail) spokesperson about it.
As for why such arrangements hadn’t been made with traditional cab companies, agency spokesman Morgan Lyons says Uber has a “coolness factor” that raises transit’s profile in a city where it’s often overlooked.
“Being relevant to that kind of community helped us a lot more in a way than just saying: ‘Ride DART,’” he says. “Taxi service here is different than in New York or D.C. It's not something folks think of quite as readily.”
So maybe Tampa can relate to that sentiment. But honestly, I wonder if it isn't also part of a leaky brawl between HART and the Hillsborough Public Transportation Commission. The PTC in Hillsborough County has been all '1950s' about letting black cars circulate Tampa streets in all uppity fashion and what not as if they're equal to the pristine Tampa Yellow cabs in service and safety. Which is to say, they are fighting Uber tooth and hail. There is repetitive content at the PTC site which is aimed at steering people clear of Uber-like solutions.
The Hillsborough PTC would like to remind you that while companies like Yellow Cab of Tampa might own the numbers of the Devil, share-riding companies may actually be the devil.
If there is a brawl, it is not without each side having some merit. Uber is cool and efficient and it wants to work with public transit albeit perhaps as means to its own ends. HART and other transit agencies would be foolish to overlook a perfected integration with something at least resembling a taxicab company if the local taxicab companies themselves won’t play nicely. Plus, Yellow or United cab companies of Tampa are not exactly talking about releasing their own cab hailing apps any time soon (which one supposes they could since New York cabs have since taken the plunge - it’s apparently not rocket science).
But the PTC has its points about maintaining high standards which I for one have not yet taken any time to validate one way or another for or against Uber. But, I will say this, as an agency, the PTC works at making sure Tampa cabs are clean, professional, and managed well. You can’t argue with results and if you’ve seen the shoddy clunkers with plastic taxicab toplights strapped on their rooftops with chicken wire darting around in other cities, you know what I mean. Without drawing a line, without regulation, things can devolve quickly. Maybe that's why PTC cops are packing heat?