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Uber wants you to hail a ride to that faraway bus stop

Ride-hail app partners with tech company to help encourage mass transit use


Transit technology company TransLoc announced Monday it was teaming up with Uber to "bridge the gap" between trains, buses, and app-based car services.

Durham, NC-based TransLoc said it would integrate Uber's application program interface, or API, into the app it builds for public transportation agencies, so users could "receive a personalized journey that incorporates the optimal combination of walking, transit, and Uber," the company said. Initially, the pilot will only be available in Memphis, Tennessee, and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, but if successful, it could soon spread to other cities.

Maybe Uber doesn't want to kill mass transit

The problem TransLoc says it wants to solve is "the first-mile / last-mile challenge," in which potential transit riders say they would be willing to take public transportation, but don't because the train station or bus stop is too far away. "Our mission is to take mass transit from last resort for some, to first choice for all," said Doug Kaufman, CEO of TransLoc.

TransLoc's "Rider" app is used by riders in dozens of cities, including Santa Clara, California; Rochester, New York; and Columbia, South Carolina. Michael Melaniphy, American Public Transportation Association president and CEO, said it was "exciting to see technology companies and public transit agencies work together to test new ways for making trip options convenient and complete."

Uber has long denied the assertion by critics that it intends to kill, or at least compete with, mass transit, and the announcement of this partnership appears to back that up. Still, many of its recent products have been focused on alternatives to public transportation, like carpooling, commuting, and other services that essentially mimic public buses.

But lately, Uber and its rival Lyft have realized it can make common cause with public transportation agencies in its quest to usher in the end of personal car ownership. Uber has forged partnerships with transit agencies in Dallas, Minneapolis, Atlanta, and Los Angeles. Riders in those cities can access Uber through their respective transit apps, another aspect of Uber's plan to integrate with as many smartphone apps as possible.