How cities and businesses are helping voters this Election Day
Ride-hailing and bike-share companies are offering discounts and free rides, while several public transportation systems will be free all day.
With the Nov. 6 midterm elections less than a week away, cities and transportation companies are pitching in to help voters hit the polls.
One study by The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement found that 29% of young Americans surveyed said transportation was a reason that they did not vote in the 2016 election, while 15% said the lack of transportation to their polling place was a "major factor" for not voting. That number rises to 38% for young people of color, who said a lack of transportation played a role for not voting.
To try and combat accessibility woes and drive turnout, cities and businesses are offering discounts and free rides to the polls. Here are some of the highlights:
City bike-share companies
Docked bike-share systems in nine cities will offer free rides on Election Day: Boston; Chicago; Columbus, OH; Jersey City, NJ; New York City; Portland, OR; Minneapolis; San Francisco; and Washington, DC.
The free ride initiative is by bike-share company Motivate, with riders able to use a code in their local bike-share app to access a free day-long pass. One exception is in Portland, which offers 30 minutes of free ride time, as Oregon has a vote-by-mail system.
"We want to make it easier than ever to pedal to the polls this Election Day," Julie Wood, a Motivate spokesperson, said in a statement. "Too many Americans don’t vote because they lack reliable and affordable transportation options. As voters make their plans for November 6, we encourage the millions living in cities served by our bike share networks to take advantage of free rides and use bike share to get to and from the polls."
Dockless bike- and scooter-share
Dockless company Lime will offer free rides to and from the polls on its bikes and scooters for up to 30 minutes. The free ride will be accessible through a discount code and will be available in more than 100 cities in the United States.
"Transportation to the polls is often a challenge for many Americans on Election Day, so we’re doing our part to help," Lime co-founder Brad Bao wrote in a blog post.
Fellow dockless provider Gotcha is also offering free rides to the polls, the company announced this week.
Ride-hailing giant Uber is also looking to make it easier for riders to get to their polling place, having previously partnered with various nonprofit organizations nationwide to register people to vote. On Election Day, anyone in the U.S. can find their polling place and book a ride with a temporary Get to the Polls button in the app.
And in conjunction with partners #VoteTogether and Democracy Works, Uber will offer $10 off a single ride to the polls on Tuesday through a promo code made available through the app. It is not available in Michigan, Puerto Rico or other U.S. territories like Guam.
"With the 2018 elections around the corner, many organizations and companies across the country are going the extra mile to support our democratic process," Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi wrote in a blog post. "At Uber, we want to do our part, too — by helping voters register and get to the polls on Election Day."
Lyft will also offer discounted rides to polling places across the country, with 50% off all trips as well as free rides for those in underserved communities. The latter initiative comes through partnerships with nonpartisan nonprofits including Voto Latino, local Urban League affiliates, the National Federation of the Blind, Faith in Action, League of Women Voters and the Student Vets of America.
A number of public transportation systems are offering free or discounted rides all day to encourage voters to go to the polls. In Los Angeles, the LA Metro system will have free bus and train rides all day, something Mayor Eric Garcetti said is "a little bit of a financial hit to us, but I think it’s well worth it for our democracy," according to the LA Times. The free service will cost an estimated $600,000.
Houston, TX’s Metro system will also offer free rides on its light rail trains and buses, as it has in previous years, while the likes of Indianapolis and Columbia, SC will offer free bus service all day.
"This effort is to assist in mobility on Election Day by eliminating fares as an economic barrier to exercising the right to vote"” Columbia officials said in a statement.
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