A partnership between Durham-based transit technology company TransLoc, public transit agency GoTriangle and Uber may one day help better connect commuters to public transportation, particularly in more suburban areas.

The Triangle recently became the first market for TransLoc’s Uber upgrade to its bus and transit tracking mobile app. Through the app, called TransLoc Rider, passengers can plan their route and book an Uber to cover the trip to or from the bus stop.

The impact has yet to show up in GoTriangle’s ridership numbers, which hover around 1.8 million passengers per year between 2013 and 2016. A customer service survey conducted by GoTriangle in 2016 found that about 8 percent of GoTriangle riders said they had used an Uber or Lyft in conjunction with a bus trip in the previous 30 days.

Officials said partnerships like this will be increasingly important to provide seamless mobility for everyone as bus services – and the boundaries of the Triangle – continue to push out in all directions.

“Our pilot with GoTriangle has proved to be another step toward overcoming the first-mile, last-mile obstacle many people outside urban centers face when trying to access public transit,” said Josh Cohen, TransLoc’s director of strategy and partnerships.

The TransLoc Rider app allows people to find the best route to get from place to place, whether that be through public transit, walking, Uber or a combination, as well as where their bus is and how soon it will arrive. Evelyn Cashen of public relations firm Antenna Group, representing TransLoc, said 105,000 people used Rider between February 2016 and 2017, but the company is not sharing figures for the number of people who used Uber during that time.

“The added value of the pilot is not about the specific numbers of people who are using transit and Uber but the ability to seamlessly integrate another transit mode that makes trip planning even easier for our riders,” said Mike Charbonneau, GoTriangle director of marketing and communications.

The Uber pilot program in the Triangle has led to similar TransLoc and Uber partnerships in Memphis, Tenn., Gainesville, Fla., San Jose, Calif., and Clemson, S.C. TransLoc Rider also allows passengers of the Amtrak Piedmont and Carolinian trains to find transit options, such as public transit and Uber, to and from North Carolina’s Amtrak stations.

Wake County’s Transit Plan, which was approved by voters in November, is expected to increase the need for connections to other modes of transportation as the bus network extends into places such as Cary, Holly Springs, Apex, Knightdale and Garner.

“As transit service abundance increases in the region, a broader range of customers will begin using the service,” Charbonneau said. “Most will use transit in conjunction with other ways of getting around – from bikes to ride-sharing to Lyft/Uber to driving their own cars.”

In some cases, ride-hailing services like Uber are a natural rival of public transportation. For shorter trips in particular, riders choose to take Uber or Lyft instead; GoTriangle’s customer survey indicated that 20 percent of riders surveyed had used the services to replace a bus trip within the previous 30 days.
But TransLoc and GoTriangle officials said in most cases, Uber and Lyft costs much more than public transit and complements – rather than competes with – longer bus trips, by providing connections on the front and back ends.

For example, a trip from downtown Raleigh to Research Triangle Park via bus on a Tuesday afternoon would cost $2.25 plus an $8 Uber ride for the last couple miles, while a similar trip completely using Uber would come in at $42.

Charbonneau said relying solely on services such as Uber adds up if you are making daily trips, like commuting to and from work.

“This may be acceptable to some people on an infrequent basis (for example, a trip to the airport),” he said. “It would be truly rare for someone to accept these costs on a regular basis.”

As the Triangle’s population grows and transit options continue to expand, TransLoc and GoTriangle officials say they will continue to look for more ways to make it easier for riders to understand what transit choices are available. For example, GoTriangle is looking into TransLoc’s OnDemand Product for use in Research Triangle Park that could allow for more direct shuttle trips to and from employers, Charbonneau said.

GoTriangle also is exploring providing incentives for transit customers to continue riding the bus in exchange for credits to use for Lyft, Uber or taxicab trips when or where bus services aren’t available.
“The pilot speaks to GoTriangle’s commitment to the future of mobility and what it will look like,” Charbonneau said. “The pilot is one step in that direction, and there will be many more going forward.”