Rather than viewing companies like Uber and Lyft as competition, several Bay Area bus agencies are looking to partner with the ride-hailing services instead.
Bus operators are hoping to solve what they call the first- and last-mile problem: getting riders, especially ones in more suburban communities, to and from fixed bus routes.
It would take too long for buses to go up every cul-de-sac or to every apartment building, reducing the appeal for riders at the end of the line, said Rick Ramacier, general manager of County Connection, which serves central Contra Costa County. So instead, Ramacier said, staffers are talking behind the scenes with ride-hailing companies to see whether services like UberPool or Lyft Line could step in to offer a more nimble, time-efficient solution.
For their part, representatives from both Uber and Lyft said the companies are interested in forming partnerships with transit agencies. Lyft launched its "Friends in Transit" program in November, a public information campaign encouraging customers to use Lyft to connect to public transit, according to Lyft spokeswoman Mary Caroline Pruitt. And earlier this year, Uber announced a partnership with Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority in Florida on a program called Direct Connect. The service allows riders to use Uber to travel within a specific area to get to or from a series of designated bus stops.
Blocking such a partnership, according to Ramacier, are federal regulations mandating background checks for bus company drivers, including drug testing.