Are ride share apps like Uber & Lyft really accessible?

I’ve always found it frustrating when we refer to ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft as positive “disruptive” forces that are changing the way we think about transportation. Generally speaking, these are organizations that have exploited policy loopholes to subvert controls and regulation placed on the taxi industry, for better and/or worse, to give themselves a competitive advantage over those who play by the rules. But are they accessible for everyone? Apparently not, as seen all too clearly in a recent ABC story about a women in San Francisco who regularly has drivers cancel her rides because of her service dog.

Ride sharing programs may be a novel way to diversify our transportation marketplace, but relying on the virtue of untrained and unpoliced operators to “do right” by disabled customers is to set ourselves up for failure. We have seen this through failed charity model experiments throughout the US and are sure to continue seeing this behaviour in the ride share space. I have yet to see an accessible Uber vehicle in London, ON and the one time I used an accessible Uber in Toronto, I was picked up by an off-duty cab driver who was using their adapted cab to make a bit of extra money on the side.

The opportunity for drivers to “self select” out of accessibility (in official and unofficial ways) means we are unlikely to see adequate servicing of disabled riders through ride share programs and, if these services continue to impact the traditional taxi industry, could see reduced accessible transit options in the future if cab companies start going under.

The apps may be pretty snazzy. The prices might (seem) better. The service may be convenient. But in the end, is it any surprise that things like this happen when these companies were essentially founded on not follow the rules?

Speaking Engagements

Free Screening of “Idling: A Transit Story” @ Ryerson University

This week I had the chance to screen “Idling: A Transit Story” at Ryerson University and deliver a short presentation about my trip to Ottawa in ’08. After the presentation I accompanied some students around campus for some good ol’ fashion stairbombing before calling it a day. Huge thank you to Ryerson for being so supportive and I look forward to seeing you in the new year at the RyeACCESS conference.