Buried in this Route Fifty article about Uber’s data transparency (or lack of) are important warnings about the creeping privatization of transit.

“Public transit is very, very expensive,” said [Frank Martz, City Manager of Altamonte Springs, Florida]. “It’s not practical for local government budgets to continue funding higher cost per trip, or non-efficient, or lesser efficient modes of transportation.”… “The problem we’re in is that traditional transit solutions are not as mobile, are not as flexible and are not as convenient as the new economy wants,” he said.

Also here.

This presages a triple risk: [1] current jobs replaced in the short term by less secure and perhaps lower paid jobs (and later by fewer jobs although plausibly higher paid); [2] loss of accountability by local transit authorities (some smaller, bus-only authorities will likely be disbanded altogether); and [3] loss of social equity as private companies typically are more selective about the customers they might choose to serve.

Transit privatization is unavoidable as innovative forms of mobility as a service (MaaS) evolve. Government authorities delivering public transit services do not know enough about how to regulate or manage this. If this is not rectified the USA and Canada will end up with a horrendous patchwork reminiscent of the third world, which will dramatically worsen with automation unless we are more prescient.

What we have is not working, and transit authorities have a choice: abdicate or else move quickly to create and manage a rational process of privatization in the public interest. Disruption is always successful when a new business model improves what was previously underserviced or poorly serviced or too expensive. New technologies changing too fast for government funding and decision cycles create chaotic environments to be mined for commercial opportunity. And there is a huge risk of missed social opportunities.

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