- The Marin County, CA Transit District (Marin Transit) and the Transportation Authority of Marin (TAM) have partnered with Uber to launch Connect2Transit, a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) integration that will enable access to Marin Transit's services and TAM's transportation discounts, via the Uber app.
- Starting July 1, Uber's app will display access options for the Marin Connect shared-ride transit service, as well as discounts for Uber Pool trips to and from Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) stations, the Larkspur Ferry Terminal and other major stops. The app will also display real-time service information for other regional offerings like SMART rail service and Golden Gate Transit bus service.
- Uber's foray into SaaS marks a "historic first" for the company, David Reich, head of Uber Transit, said in a statement. The partnership will bring "efficient, accessible, and equitable on-demand public transportation to the region," he said.
Marin Transit — which operates a fixed-route bus system and a number of demand response programs — launched a pilot of its Marin Connect on-demand transit service in 2018 with a goal of increasing same-day, accessible service for seniors and persons with disabilities, Cody Lowe, planning analyst for Marin Transit, told Smart Cities Dive in an interview.
"Obviously, the mobility space has changed immensely since that time period," Lowe said, noting that Marin Transit was quickly ready to advance its tech offerings. Meanwhile, TAM, a sales tax authority that funds local transportation programs, has run a $5-off first-mile/last-mile incentive program since 2016 to connect riders to and from SMART stations in Marin County.
In an effort to simplify the process of selecting a transportation option, the groups entered a joint public procurement in October for a software solution to integrate these offerings into one app. Uber was selected as the solution provider in March, following a "grueling evaluation process" of over 15 bidders, Lowe said.
While launching the partnership amid a global health crisis was not the initial plan, TAM planning manager Derek McGill told Smart Cities Dive that the partners see the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) "as somewhat of an opportunity for this program."
"It allows us to work through some of the testing as we launch the program in a less demand-intensive environment ... But it also allows us to understand exactly how on-demand transit in a flexible route structure can support COVID-19 recovery efforts in getting folks back on to transit, during a period where we’re seeing pretty dramatic transit ridership declines," McGill said.
The partnership will also allow TAM to enhance employer partnerships amid the pandemic, he said. TAM is working with Kaiser Permanente and Marin County on an incentive program in which employers pick up commuting costs of employees after TAM's $5-off coupons are applied.
"This is a way for us to partner with private businesses to make sure employees’ commute costs are covered on this service and support the economic recovery of these businesses in getting their employees back to work," he said.
Though the partnership is centered on the use of mobile devices, Lowe ensured that Marin Transit is "maintaining that the service meet the needs of those who encounter barriers to an app-based services" by continuing to run a call center with bilingual staff and allow riders to pay cash on board when needed.
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