Rather than investing in a new public transit system, the town of Innisfil, Ontario has struck a deal with Uber to provide subsidized rides to local citizens travelling around the town. It’s a clever arrangement that makes short trips affordable for local residents and costs the town a lot less money than running a bus system.
Obviously, the lesson doesn’t translate to a larger market like Ottawa, where transit demands are much greater and more complex. But it does show that sometimes the simplest solution is not for government to create more public services. And it offers a small glimpse into the future. One day, when Uber or other services use self-driving cars, consumers will have access to an even more affordable network of on-demand vehicles. When that happens, it’s not unreasonable to think that ridership on public transit will significantly drop.
If that day comes in the next few decades, it’s possible we will wonder why we spent billions of dollars on a new light rail system that was supposed to serve us for half a century.