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Ride-Sharing’s Uneven Effect On Pennsylvania Transit Agencies

Margaret J. Krauss
90.5 WESA
Port Authority of Allegheny County, the public transit agency that serves Pittsburgh and the surrounding area, provides roughly 64 million rides a year, volume that’s largely unaffected by competition from ride-sharing.";

Ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft began operating in Pennsylvania cities in 2014, but have had divergent effects on public transit agencies in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

The number of people who ride buses, trains and inclines in Pittsburgh has remained fairly steady, though fewer riders seem to be taking the last buses of the night, said Adam Brandolph, spokesperson for the Port Authority of Allegheny County.

Ride-sharing has most significantly impacted the 28X, a bus that runs from the university district in Oakland through downtown and on to Pittsburgh International Airport. In 2013, before Lyft and then Uber arrived on the scene, the 28X averaged 58,786 rides per month; now, that monthly average is just more than 50,000.

The agency may add luggage racks or more frequent service to regain riders, said Brandolph.

“We have been having informal discussions internally on what can we do, or what can we do better to get those riders back,” he said. “Make them choose public transit.”

Brandolph said it’s unclear why Port Authority’s ridership hasn’t been more affected. In Philadelphia, SEPTA ridership is down 2.7 percent overall between 2014 and 2016, asreported by The transit system there is undergoing a comprehensive review.

While the Port Authority’s losses have been minimal, Brandolph said officials will continue to evaluate how best to co-exist with ride-sharing companies in the future.

“Not everyone can afford a one-way trip for $6 every single day,” he said. “We have a place in society, in the world, to get people to where they want to go.”

Overall, shared transportation systems such as ride-sharing or bike-sharing seems to promote public transit use, and contribute to decreased car ownership, according to a 2016 analysis from the American Public Transportation Association.