Ride sharing apps for rural use and the last urban half mile

By Sharlan Douglas

Might ride sharing apps like Uber and Lyft solve transit challenges in rural and urban America?

Beginning in November, the state of Nebraska will experiment with a 24-hour ride hailing service that would complement existing public transit in rural areas. Liberty, a company that sprang from a U.S. department of transportation business incubation program, will recruit drivers from schools, police and the Veteran Administration who will keep 80 percent of the estimated dollar per mile fee. The service will add flexibility on occasions when scheduled paratransit routes don’t match the needs of patients, workers or even people who just want to go out for pizza. Here’s the full story.

In my opinion, ride sharing may also solve the problem of the “last half mile” in urban areas. The law of diminishing returns limits the ability to extend subways or fixed-route buses and connecting street buses. Why couldn’t transit agencies license the Uber or Lyft app or develop their own? They could vet drivers and either they or social service agencies might partly underwrite the rides for those in need.