Best Practices: TNC Integration

Sept. 13, 2019
Partnerships between transit providers and Transportation Network Companies can help greatly improve a community’s mobility options.

DCTA and Lyft 

Lindsey Baker, Director of Strategic Partnerships, Denton County Transportation Authority

DENTON, TEXAS - As transportation expectations change and technology evolves, Denton County Transportation Authority (DCTA) has partnered with the private sector to provide a variety of innovative services to our passengers. Where traditional transit is not an option or an effective solution, we are able to deploy Transportation Network Company (TNC) services in partnership with Lyft and other mobility technology providers to offer much-needed service at a lower cost to the agency and our taxpayers.

We have implemented five TNC programs since 2016 with varying degrees of success. The most widely-used and successful deployments are workforce and student-based, addressing first- and last-mile transit connectivity and after-hour transportation needs. This is particularly successful in areas with concentrated warehouse and distribution centers and hospitality/retail centers that require a large low-wage workforce, but often are not located near affordable housing options.

Since our first member-city deployment in partnership with Uber in 2016, we have refined our best practices in collaborating with TNCs. Our current TNC partnership programs offer a best practice snapshot and are the result of years of learning from various deployments in our member and non-member communities.

Current Partnerships and Programs

Currently, DCTA has three major Lyft partnership programs that serve the city of Highland Village, University of North Texas (UNT) and the Alliance area in Denton and Tarrant Counties.

Highland Village Lyft Program, Deployed August 2018

Trips: August 2018 to June 2019 - 1,186 total, 108 average per month

Our Highland Village Lyft program replaced our previous Community On-Demand service that is more cost effective for the agency. We partnered with Lyft to offer a $10 discount for rides using the Lyft mobile app within the specified zone to provide more transit options for those traveling in Highland Village and north Lewisville. The program connects our A-train commuter corridor to retail and restaurant destinations, jobs and medical facilities. The discount applies to Lyft trips only.

UNT Lyft Zone Program, Deployed September 2018

Trips: August 2018 launch to June 2019 – 2,394 total, 218 average per month

UNT partnered with us and Lyft to launch a pilot service to provide students with free, safe and reliable on-demand service after hours when they travel in the designated UNT Lyft Zone. The zone includes access to campus buildings, dorms, non-dorm housing, an off-site research facility and adjacent restaurants.

ZIPZONE Lyft Program, Deployed February 2019

Trips: February 2019 launch to June 2019 – 1,895 total, 379 average per month

Following a successful nine-month, dynamic Mobility as a Service (MaaS) pilot funded through a public-private partnership, Trinity Metro partnered with us to launch ZIPZONE in Alliance, a large commercial multi-use development. Based on the pilot and shift schedules of the area’s workforce, we recognized ridership and transportation needs existed that could be served via a cost-effective TNC deployment. Riders traveling in the Alliance area use the Lyft-operated ZIPZONE, on-demand service at no cost. Trinity Metro fully subsidizes the Lyft service within the Alliance zone that includes trips from a park and ride facility and North Texas Xpress commuter bus stops to jobs throughout the area.

Some obstacles DCTA faces in incorporating TNC deployments include:

• Integration with public transit technology/MaaS applications (one-stop shop for payment, trip planning, etc.)

• Specific data-gathering from TNCs to inform future deployments or service refinement

Future TNC Partnership Programs and Projects

We are going full speed ahead with new TNC partnerships. One partnership slated to launch in fall 2019 is our Lyft program in the city of Coppell. At DCTA, we believe it’s essential for us to continue to integrate mobility solutions to serve the growing needs of North Texas, and we’ll continue to lead the way in advanced mobility alternatives.

Denver RTD’s collaboration with Uber

Laurie Huff, Senior Specialist, Public Affairs, Regional Transportation District

DENVER, COLO. - In May, the Regional Transportation District (RTD) claimed a distinction that remains unique among transit agencies across the world: Its riders in the metro Denver region became the first anywhere to plan their transit trips with real-time information, buy tickets and ride RTD’s buses and trains – all from the Uber app. While Uber has also debuted in-app transit journey planning in London, Boston and Sydney, only Denver also offers the ability to purchase, store and use RTD tickets within the app for the ride-hailing service.

RTD’s collaboration with Uber was made possible through mobile ticketing company Masabi, which launched mobile ticketing for RTD in fall 2017 and has formal relationships with both entities. Since the launch of in-app ticketing through Uber, close to 3,600 transit tickets were sold through the end of July, and the numbers keep climbing, with a compounded growth rate of 29.6 percent per week from the beginning of June through July. About two-thirds of the tickets sold are for local rides; the remainder are for regional trips, which also includes Denver International Airport. More than half of the individuals purchasing tickets have made repeat purchases.

 A public transit provider working with a private technology company has prompted a high level of curiosity from agency peers, regional leaders and the general public. Since journey planning through Uber debuted in Denver in January, RTD staff members at all levels have fielded a multitude of questions. Being the first in the world to take part in such a project has required working alongside Uber and Masabi to figure out all the details. The collaboration has offered new perspectives that can influence our work, and all three companies continue to learn from one another as the project moves forward.

Key takeaways include:

The exposure from this relationship with Uber is beneficial to RTD. Every transit ticket sold in the Uber app represents a conscious choice to take transit, after considering how that option compares to those offered by Uber. Travelers who ultimately choose to take an Uber still have been made aware of RTD services. The Uber app is omnipresent.

RTD views Uber and companies like it as collaborators, not competitors. Our services are complementary. People expect more flexible, customized service from their mobility options. As transit providers, it is our responsibility to explore the best ways to help people get where they need to go as easily and seamlessly as possible. Meeting this desire requires public transit providers like RTD to forge relationships with new mobility providers like Uber.

Uber Transit addresses the first- and last-mile question in transit. Since the project launched this year, more Uber trips in Denver are starting or ending near a transit station.

RTD wants Uber to be successful, because both companies benefit. As RTD does, Uber will advocate and make business decisions benefiting the company. While those aims may differ, all involved recognize the value of strong, lasting relationships and the camaraderie that has been built through this project.

Tonya Anderson, RTD’s product manager of electronic fare operations, noted that the relationship with Uber initially was viewed as a big risk – but taking such risks can offer big rewards. She likened the collaboration to standing at one edge of a foggy bridge, with Uber on the other side.

“We can’t see to the end,” Anderson said, “but we have a great partner in Masabi to leverage and learn from.”

TNCs to improve paratransit service

Tim Barham, Chief of Transit Operations, Greater Richmond Transit Company

RICHMOND, VA. - Greater Richmond Transit Company (GRTC) pioneered partnerships with TNCs to respond faster to paratransit service needs. CARE On-Demand taps into the flexibility of the on-demand transportation market, matching available drivers with customers when they want to travel with little notice. CARE On-Demand enables GRTC’s paratransit (CARE) customers the option to use a same-day, direct, non-stop trip. This premium, innovative program responds to industry-wide challenges with paratransit services. Today, GRTC completes about 11 percent of all paratransit trips through CARE On-Demand, saving the company money and improving the customer’s experience. In partnership with UZURV and Roundtrip, most CARE On-Demand trips are delivered through TNCs such as UZURV and Lyft.

For years, GRTC heard from its customers their desire for greater flexibility and privacy in using paratransit service. GRTC also needed to combat traditional paratransit service challenges, including driver shortages, long on-van shared rides, late schedules, no-shows and day-of stand-by trips. The solution needed to be ADA-compliant and meet GRTC’s required qualifications (insurance, safety, budget, trip documentation), as well as offer the customer-oriented solutions requested (solo trips, direct, non-stop service, same-day scheduling and adjustments and the ability to bring a personal care assistant and guests).

GRTC researched traditional taxi and new on-demand options to gauge the market, then issued a Request for Qualifications for a third-party transportation pilot program in October 2016. After reviewing proposals, GRTC began the pilot with UZURV in August 2017 and later welcomed Roundtrip in December 2017. Both partners provide direct, non-stop, door-to-door or curb-to-curb service and offer scheduling assistance through live call centers. Drivers are trained in passenger sensitivity, defensive driving and passenger assistance. UZURV offers an additional layer of training and permits customers to request their favorite driver. Roundtrip specializes in app-based booking. Both partners often pick up customers within 15-30 minutes of booking. Wheelchair accessible vehicles are also available upon request.

CARE On-Demand customers pay a $6 “co-pay” for the trip, with GRTC covering up to an additional $15 of the trip. Should a trip exceed this $21 amount, the remaining cost is explained to the customer in advance of the trip and then billed to the customer. The average total cost per trip is about $26. Because of the nature of the on-demand market, it is important to ensure customers are aware of peak demand pricing increases and understand alternative trip times that may be more cost-effective for the same origin to destination trip.

Customers immediately began trying the new program, with nearly 500 CARE On-Demand trips completed in the first month (August 2017). By January 2018, trips surpassed 1,000 that month. Because the cost to GRTC for a CARE On-Demand trip ($15 max) is less than traditional paratransit (about $28 per trip), we estimate saving approximately $574,000 since launching in August 2017. With on-time-performance consistently higher than 97 percent, customer satisfaction with On-Demand is understandably high. GRTC now completes about 11 percent of its CARE trips through On-Demand, shifting more than 2,000 CARE trips per month to On-Demand.

Join us for the Virtual Roundtable:

Best Practices for TNC Integration

Oct. 9, 3pm East/2pm Central to learn more about how transit providers are partnering with TNCs to solve first- and last-mile challenges. Register at