Last week, Uber announced plans to invest in sustainable mobility in a major way. The ride-share company pledged $10 million over the next three years to initiatives designed to minimize traffic congestion and promote public transportation — two goals that have often been at odds with Uber’s business model.
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi explained the new fund in a blog post published to the company’s website. In it, he acknowledged Uber’s role in the transit problems that plague multiple cities. “As more people have come to rely on Uber, our technology has become an important part of the transportation fabric of cities,” he wrote. “With that comes a responsibility: we recognize we need to step up and support cities that take bold steps to solve their transportation problems.
“We are in a unique position to have a meaningful and positive impact on the communities we serve across the globe — a responsibility we don’t take lightly.”
The sustainable mobility fund will support relevant policies that clear up clogged streets. Uber will select those policies using the Shared Mobility Principles for Livable Cities as a guide, and one of the first policies will be congestion pricing.
This concept essentially calls on cities to slap higher fees on car rides into busy areas during peak hours. It’s gained traction in New York, where many see it as a solution to the subway crisis that’s been plaguing the city since 2017. Uber will spend $1 million lobbying the New York state legislature to enact congestion pricing next year.
“Congestion pricing…is viewed by urban planners, transit advocates, and academics as the single best way to ease the road congestion that is choking many cities across the globe,” Khosrowshahi wrote in the 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.”
Uber will also invest $250,000 in SharedStreets, a nonprofit that collects data on public roads. With SharedStreets, Uber hopes to build “state-of-the-art standards for how private players can share road speed data.” The two companies previously partnered on a city curb data project, designed to brainstorm solutions to limited curb space.
Then there’s JUMP, the dockless electrified bike-share company that Uber acquired this spring. To make sure city infrastructure can support these bikes, Uber will install charging stations in Sacramento at public transit hubs, colleges, and other accessible locations. And since Uber wants to encourage city dwellers to pedal, it will also donate money to PeopleForBikes, a nonprofit that advocates for bicycle project funding and laws that make biking around cities simpler. The blog post did not specify the donation amount.
Uber will presumably have more sustainable mobility announcements to come over the next three years. But the pivot follows similar actions from competitors like Lyft, which announced a carbon offset program earlier this year.
“Today, we’re at an inflection point, the private and public sectors need to come together and collaborate on ways to create smarter, safer and more efficient ways of getting people from A to B,” Khosrowshahi wrote in the blog post.
“Uber is committed to doing more—and with the announcements we’re making today, we’re thrilled to be making steps toward delivering on that promise.”
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