Our Work

Abandoning Paratransit Service to Save It?

How Partnering with Uber and Lyft Undermines the Mission of Transit Agencies

In 2016, the Brookings Institution published an article purporting to show how transit agencies could save money by partnering with transportation network companies (TNCs) to provide demand response (DR) service for people with disabilities. Its title, “How Lyft and Uber can improve transit agency budgets,” promised a solution to cash-strapped agencies looking for ways to cut paratransit costs without sacrificing service.

Brookings is not the first, nor will it be the last, to present this kind of inaccurate and shallow “study” as independent research. In response, ATU has published our own paper that relies on third-party data and real-world experiences to illustrate the many ways that TNC-focused paratransit solutions exacerbate the problems faced by public transit agencies. We also offer our own list of recommendations for how this vital public service can actually be safeguarded and strengthened.

Read the full report (PDF)

Demand response service is not just a relic of the old economy waiting to be disrupted. It provides independence for people with disabilities. It should be operated to ensure transit access for all, not to earn private profits. The best role that TNCs could play in improving paratransit is to assist agencies in developing their own 21st-century scheduling and dispatch software.

A transit agency’s mission is not to “improve their budgets” by outsourcing their responsibilities and segregating their services, as Brookings suggests, but to provide high-quality service for their riders, the wages and working conditions necessary to train and retain professional, career-path employees, and, where resources for these priorities are lacking, to advocate alongside riders and workers for more funding.