Uber Commits $10M to Reduce City Traffic

Ride-hailing giant Uber has pledged to commit $10 million over the next three years to a campaign that will gather ideas to improve mobility in cities, including congestion pricing and connected infrastructure.

The company will use The Shared Mobility Principles for Livable Cities, developed by a group of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) specializing in sustainable transportation, to distribute the funds.

“Congestion pricing is viewed by urban planners, transit advocates, and academics as the single best way to ease the road congestion choking many cities across the globe,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi wrote in a company blog post. “We’re ready to do our part to help cities that want to put in place smart policies to tackle congestion — even if that means paying money out of our own pocket to pass a tax on our core business.”

Khosrowshahi believes that the funding generated by a congestion charge would directly support improvement of mass transit, noting Uber recently committed an additional $1 million to fight for the passage of a congestion tax bill next year.

“To address climate change and improve quality of life for the billions of people who live and work in cities, the public and private sector have to work together,” Robin Chase, co-founder and former CEO of Zipcar and initiator of the Shared Mobility Principles, wrote in a statement.

Uber is also donating $250,000 to SharedStreets, a nonprofit initiative supported by the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) and the Open Transport Partnership.

SharedStreets is dedicated to helping public and private organizations gather and share data that can improve public streets.

In the coming months, Uber will be making “street segment level speeds” data — part of the Uber Movement dataset — free and publicly available.

“In making this traditionally difficult to compile and costly dataset freely available, we’re hoping to inspire more and better conversations about the future of our streets,” Emily Strand, head of open data, public policy and mobility at Uber, wrote in a blog post.

She explained the company is also working to avoid common pitfalls like cost-prohibitive contracts and restrictive data sharing agreements.

Congestion pricing is currently limited to a few cities, including London, Stockholm, Singapore and Milan. In the US, New York City politicians have been trying to push through a comparable scheme in the Big Apple for more than a decade.

In San Francisco, voters could impose a per-ride tax on ride-sharing providers like Uber and Lyft and also their robo-taxis after the California legislature passed a bill earlier this month allowing the city to take that step.

In addition, a report released earlier this year from the Massachusetts Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) found ride-hailing services such as Lyft and Uber were actually making traffic in Boston worse, as many of the people using the services would have otherwise taken public transportation.

These transformations may become even more profound if widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles makes on-demand mobility even less expensive and more efficient, the report noted.

— Nathan Eddy is a filmmaker and freelance journalist based in Berlin. Follow him on Twitter.

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