Touted for years as the company that would disrupt the taxi industry, Uber is now going old school and experimenting with a telephone dispatch system that allows those without smartphones to call in to order an Uber ride.
If that sounds familiar, it should; it’s how taxi’s have operated for more than a century.
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The new program is being tested as a pilot program with the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority in Florida and launches on July 18. The program is part of a project to offer subsidized Uber rides to those typically reliant on the bus-based public transit system, according to Christopher Cochran, senior planner at the PSTA.
Under the new plan, “transit disadvantaged” residents can phone in a request for an Uber ride and be granted a taxpayer-subsidized trip anywhere within the service area during daytime hours. The program covers both travel the dispatcher deems “urgent and life sustaining” as well as minor things, such as grocery shopping or routine medical visits.
What’s interesting is the possibilities the move opens up for cities to complement their existing public transportation options for “transit disadvantaged” individuals. The move would see Uber vying for new clientele not just in tech-savvy smartphone users, but as an additional option for municipal and state governments and a real alternative for the non-tech savvy to the traditional route of calling — or hailing — a taxi.