Uber and Lyft are looking to come to Central Oregon in the very near future. These services, often known as transportation network companies (TNCs) or ride-hailing companies, connect paying passengers with drivers who provide the transportation with their own non-commercial vehicles. They are now found in many metropolitan areas, providing peer-to-peer ridesharing opportunities for people around the world. Currently, City of Bend and City of Redmond officials are determining the best policies to safely allow these services to operate in the area.
Having a wide variety of transportation options is the key to a complete and accessible-for-everyone transportation system. These app-based companies can open up more opportunities for active transportation in our region.
One important benefit that a TNC can bring to our region is flexibility. Imagine if you walk or bike to your workplace, but need to go to a meeting across town. You can very quickly access the app and request a ride. Is your car in the shop for a few days? Plan some trips using Uber. Or, with our sometimes wild and wooly weather, you might walk to work in the morning, only to find yourself heading home in a snowstorm—another great case for a using a TNC.
Some areas are exploring partnerships between ride-hailing companies and health care facilities to help patients get to and from medical appointments. Several research studies show that for 10-50% of patients in suburban and rural areas, a lack of transportation is a barrier to health care access. Having a local TNC would expand the opportunities for access to health care.
Also consider the habits and desires of the Millennial generation. Millennials aged 18-34 years are not only embracing the “sharing economy”, but are demanding it, and seeking to live in places that offer such services. Over half of Millennials use sharing apps such as Uber, Lyft and Airbnb. Our economic future will partly rely on drawing top talent for local businesses in our region, and having flexible transportation options will only make central Oregon a more appealing place to live.
A recent study by researchers at Arizona State University found that Uber reduced traffic congestion in 87 different urban areas in the U.S. Because Ubers can’t accept street hails, they do much less unnecessary driving-around looking for customers (like taxis) and they eliminate the need to look for parking for every trip made.
Home to the University of Montana, the town of Missoula (pop. 71,000) recently added Uber, with initial good results. Not only does it provide an alternative transportation service, but also opens up opportunities for college students to earn money on the side.
Jeff Monson, Executive Director for Commute Options says, “Having an app-based transportation network company such as Uber or Lyft adds value to our community by providing more options for people to either not have a car, or not use their car for single-occupant trips.”
Celebrating 25 years of Commute Options! Promoting choices that reduce the impacts of driving alone. For more information, contact Executive Director, Jeff Monson at 541-330-2647 or visit www.commuteoptions.org
Katy Bryce is a freelance writer in Bend. www.katybryce.com