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TRB Special Report 319
Between Public and Private

Examining the Rise of Technology-Enabled Transportation Services

A new report from the Transportation Research Board (TRB), the largest unit of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, discusses in detail regulatory and policy issues raised by the rapid growth of Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) such as Uber and Lyft and other innovative shared mobility services including carsharing, bikesharing and microtransit.

The report offers guidance to local and state elected officials and regulators on these rapidly evolving and complex issues. Highlights from the report on taxi, livery and TNC regulation:

  • Innovative mobility services including TNCs, bikesharing and carsharing are being widely embraced and bring substantial benefits to travelers, while also raising important public policy and public safety issues.

  • The challenge for policy makers and regulators is to encourage and facilitate innovations that meet the public's mobility needs while ensuring consistency across taxis, limousines and TNCs to ensure fair competition.

  • In cities with heavily-regulated taxi industries, government officials may need to consider reducing constraints on taxis to allow them to compete more effectively with TNCs as part of a broad reassessment of taxi, limousine and TNC regulations. The report discusses in detail issues of driver background checks, auto liability insurance, wheelchair access and the digital divide.

  • The report is supportive of opening up dispatch markets to competition, as TNCs have done across the country. Competition in dispatch markets holds promise for consumers and there is less need for concern about oversupply of dispatched services than for street hail/taxi stand service.

  • Methods for driver background checks should be evaluated to determine most effective protocols, and then applied consistently across industry sectors.

  • Officials should ensure disabled access (particular attention to wheelchair-accessible service) with a variety of potential approaches. Whatever methods are chosen should be applied consistently across sectors (taxis, TNCs, etc). For example, per-trip fees if they are used should be applied across sectors.

  • Pros and cons of drivers' independent contractor status, an issue that transcends ride services, should be examined.

  • Data reporting requirements should focus on meeting policy and planning needs and should also be applied consistently across industry sectors.

  • While not prescribing whether taxis and TNCs should be regulated at the state, regional or city level, the report emphasizes the importance of consistency in regulations across sectors and maintaining a robust enforcement capability where needed.

  • The growth of TNCs may create widespread impacts on urban traffic and land use, for better or worse. Public policy should guide the development of these new services so they advance mobility, safety and environmental goals.

  • "Concurrent" shared rides (strangers riding together) has most far-reaching potential to affect urban travel and land use, especially when self-driving cars become a reality.
The report is the product of a year-long examination of these issues by a policy committee formed and funded by the Transportation Research Board. The committee was chaired by UCLA professor Brian Taylor. Committee members were:
  • Ryan Chin, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Melanie Crotty, San Francisco Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission
  • Jennifer Dill, Portland State University
  • Lester Hoel, University of Virginia
  • Michael Manville, Cornell University
  • Steve Polzin, University of South Florida
  • Bruce Schaller, Schaller Consulting
  • Susan Shaheen, University of California, Berkeley
  • Daniel Sperling, University of California, Davis
  • Marzia Zafar, California Public Utility Commission
  • Susan Zielinski, University of Michigan

See also:

Report issued December 11, 2015.

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