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Bus ridership has plunged nationwide since ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft appeared, but about 30 cities have found ways to partner with the new companies to reach their transit goals in cheaper and easier ways.

It may be too early to say whether these partnerships can stop riders from fleeing public transit, but transportation experts say the partnerships offer a glimpse into transit's very-different future.

"Given the magnitude of the declines across the industry, millions and millions of trips per year, I don't think we're at a point yet where the partnerships—still limited to thirty or so examples that you all have found around the country—are yet reversing that," said Christopher Kopp of the transportation planning firm HTNB. "However, I think the potential here is that they're a way forward.”

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In more than two dozen cities across the country, transit agencies have partnered with private-sector transportation providers, such as Lyft, Uber and Via, as well as local taxi companies and other mobility providers. These relationships have evolved as agencies seek to grow ridership, burnish their brand and remain relevant amid the pervasive growth of non-traditional, app-based transportation services.

The transit agencies run the spectrum from large to small, and the deals they have struck with transportation network companies like Uber or Lyft have taken a number of creative shapes. Some of those programs remain and are under further development, while others have been closed out for various reasons.

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Uber and Lyft came to prominence with their ride-hailing services. But increasingly they’re betting on other modes of transportation — with the aim of becoming the only service people need to get around cities.

Lyft on Monday struck a deal to buy the core parts of Motivate, the parent company of CitiBike in New York and seven other bike-sharing programs around the United States. At first, that acquisition may seem puzzling — why would a ride-hailing giant want to get into the far smaller market for bicycles? — but there’s a bigger idea at work here.

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