The Innisfil Experiment: the Town that Replaced Public Transit with Uber

The Innisfil Experiment: the Town that Replaced Public Transit with Uber

The town of Innisfil in Ontario, Canada has partnered with Uber in place of public transit. Low density development drove the town to choose subsidizing Uber over creating a public transit system due to the perceived cost of both. However, the amount Innisfil spent subsidizing Uber rides has already exceeded the amount they estimated it would cost to create a public transit system. Experts question the partnership, citing environmental and economic problems.

Key findings

"Beyond the excitement of essentially having subsidised taxi service, experts paint a more troubling picture of questionable economic and environmental sustainability. The city has now spent more on Uber than the traditional transit option it was considering, and has dramatically increased the number of cars on its roads, with worrying implications for air quality and the climate crisis."

"Innisfil Transit has now attracted attention as the latest step in a growing assault on public transit systems by ride-sharing companies. Urban planners fear Uber isn’t just taking riders away from public transit but that it is hoping to replace public transit altogether. In London and Denver, Uber has integrated public transit options into its app to become a “one-stop shop for transportation”. In regulatory filings, published in advance of its May IPO, Uber said it wants to “replace personal vehicle ownership and usage and public transportation one use case at a time”."

The more popular the service becomes, the more the government pays in subsidies to Uber. "In fact, the town has taken the extraordinary step of deterring people from using Uber too much, capping the number of rides a resident can take per month. For mall worker Arrega, who has been “working like crazy”, that often means exceeding the limit midway through the month, although the town allows riders to apply for an exemption. It has also increased the cost of a ride by $1."

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