The Spokane Transit Authority could soon partner with a popular ride-sharing company Uber.

The STA told KREM 2 they are exploring the partnership as an option, though there is a lot of work that has to be done before something like that could take form.

“We know that these are popular private sector companies that make transportation convenient so we want to make sure that if there is an opportunity for us to be a part of it, we can be,” explained Brandon Rapez-Betty, the senior communications specialist for STA.

The program they are considering is called the “First and Last Mile.” It is for people who would use transit if it were not for the distance to get to the nearest stop or from that stop to work.

“So it’s too far to walk, don’t want to take a bike, so it’s easy to just get in your car,” explained Rapez-Betty. “But if there was a way for it to be affordable that is the kind of programs they are looking at.

There are a few public transit jurisdictions that have given a partnership like this the green light on the other side of the state, and Rapez-Betty said they are keeping their eyes open for an opportunity to start up in Spokane.

“We have had an initial conversation with them to open the lines of communication but we not have identified any pilot programs just yet,” he said.

Officials told KREM 2 that these types of programs are so new to the market that they will need to track more developments from other pilot programs before meeting again.

Last week we posed a simple question with a complicated answer: Is Uber friend or foe to transit agencies? We concluded that transit agencies could capitalize on Uber by using them to eliminate the first-and-last mile challenges with the use of an integrated system.

But that’s all just theory, right? Well, we’d like to show you how agencies are turning theory into practice.

Our first example is with Atlanta’s very own MARTA. The leading agency saw an all too familiar issue with their service – addressing the first and last mile of a riders commute. With nearly two-thirds of riders using smartphones today, MARTA partnered with Uber to offer a solution to this challenge (Source: Mass Transit Magazine).

MARTA took it a step further and found a way to make transit a choice. The agency was also able to offer Wi-Fi to their riders at no additional cost. Tapping into unused bandwidth on their 4G surveillance system, MARTA delivered free Wi-Fi on their entire fleet so riders can easily browse the web or coordinate their trip.

MARTA isn’t the only agency ready to take the leap. Recently, DART partnered with Uber to create an improved experience for their riders.

The partnership was first tested at Dallas’ annual St. Patrick’s Day parade. In preparation for the celebrations, DART temporarily partnered with Uber and MAAD to encourage riders to find a safe ride home by using a combination of public transit and an Uber ride. The trial was a massive success that led both groups to discuss a more permanent partnership.

Fast forward a few months, Uber and DART officially announced their partnership integrating DART’s mobile ticketing system with Uber. Riders can access Uber directly from DART’s mobile app to quickly plan their trip using both services. The partnership aims to help riders who cannot easily access their transit stops which, you guessed it, addresses the common first/last mile issue.

We’ve seen that Uber can prove to be a successful partner, but we all need to face one simple truth: Uber is not the only (and maybe not even the best) solution. It is most likely part of the overall solution.

Your agency needs to provide the right technology to your riders. Providing modern technology, like Wi-Fi, and reliable real-time data makes your fleet more appealing and more accessible to your riders. With the right technology, you can once again make transit a choice.

Do you think that Uber has the potential to partner with your agency or does it simply pose a threat to the transit industry? What ways would you possibly like to see Trapeze facilitate integration with Uber for your agency?