Transit News

Fate of Uber in Palm Beach County to be determined August 18, 2015

Fate of Uber in Palm Beach County to be determined August 18, 2015

Executive Summary:
Citizens For Improved Transit supports Uber as a transportation option that has significant positive impacts on the lives of county residents and benefits the local economy. On August 18th at 9:30 a.m., the Palm Beach Board of County Commissioners will vote on an ordinance that will determine if Uber will be able to continue operating in Palm Beach County.

Uber, the cell phone app that allows users to request rides, has been operating in South Florida for just over a year and has provided over 5 million safe rides in South Florida.

The Broward Board of County Commissioners voted on August 11, 2015 to adopt rules that allow Uber to operate in Broward. Uber is looking for Palm Beach County to adopt similar rules to be able to continue providing service in Palm Beach County. The primary issue being discussed is the extent of the background checks required of drivers. Some County Commissioners propose requiring a Level 2 FBI background check on Uber drivers. Uber wishes to continue its practice of ensuring drivers’ clean driving and criminal histories through the use of accredited third party back ground check companies with access to national, state, and local databases.

Individuals will always have the option to use a traditional taxi service if they choose: however it has been shown that those who use Uber prefer it as a safer, more affordable, and reliable transportation service. Palm Beach County residents should have the option to choose if they want to use Uber as a transportation provider.

Citizens For Improved Transit’s recommendation: Uber should be allowed to continue to operate without additional restrictions. It has a proven track record of safe service that benefits the community without using any tax dollars. If at anytime in the future the background checks Uber performs are found to be insufficient the County Commissioners can require increased background checks to continue operations in the county. Uber is an asset to Palm Beach County and should be allowed to continue serve its residents.

What you can do:
The Board of County Commissioners will be voting if to allow Uber to continue to operate in Palm Beach County on Tuesday, August 18th. The meeting is open to the public and starts at 9:30 a.m. on the 6th floor of 301 North Olive Avenue, West Palm Beach, FL 33401.

  1. If you have an opinion on Uber you can speak for up to 2 minutes in front of the county commissioners at the meeting. It is required you fill out a card to speak when you arrive before discussions on the topic starts.
  2. Send an email to BCC-AllCommissioners@pbcgov.org and all the P.B.C. commissioners will recieve your email. Emails should be sent no later than Monday August 17th.
  3. Watch the meeting live on Channel 20 or on the internet at http://www.pbcgov.com/publicaffairs/CH20Live.htm
  4. If you have not tried Uber, use the code “UBER-PBC” and your first trip up to $20 will be free.

Facts about Uber:
Uber rides cost approximately 60% less than a traditional taxi ride. A $30 taxi trip would cost $12 using Uber. A fare estimate can be seen before requesting a trip after inputting the starting location and ending destination. Click this link for a two-minute introductory video on how the Uber service works: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G8VjcZeuvmo

Uber is an additional transportation option for Palm Beach County; if anyone chooses not to use the service they can continue to use the existing taxi services instead.

Uber drivers are confidentially rated from 1 to 5 stars by the passenger after every ride. The Uber app constantly reviews driver ratings to maintain a high level of service. Riders can also easily and confidentially write in a comment when they put in the rating for the driver so Uber knows what the issue was for a low rating. Uber drivers who behave unprofessionally or who make passengers feel unsafe are quickly eliminated from receiving more rides through this system. With driver accountability built into the Uber app through the rating system, drivers are very courteous, often going above and beyond to make the ride as pleasant as possible. Riders are able to view the driver’s name, their rating, car model, license plate number, and phone number when requesting a trip.

Once an Uber trip is requested, the vehicle typically arrives in less than 10 minutes in most areas of Palm Beach County, and wait times are under 5 minutes in more populated areas. While a rider is waiting for their vehicle to arrive they can track the vehicle in real-time on a map on their smart phone. This allows a person to stay in a comfortable and safe environment until the Uber vehicle arrives. Additionally riders can easily share ride details, including the specific route and estimated time of arrival, with friends or family so they can see a rider’s current location and arrival time.

Seeing where the vehicle is at all times is a huge advantage for safety, which taxi companies do not have. It is also very convenient, with traditional taxi services a rider is often given an unrealistic estimate of when their vehicle will arrive.

This is done because dispatchers only know the general areas where their taxis are. A taxi driver wanting a fare could radio the taxi dispatch saying they are on route to pick up a passenger even if they have not dropped off their current rider. This leaves the passenger standing outside looking around for the taxi to come without an accurate idea of when it will arrive.

A report conducted in partnership with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) reveals that when empowered with more transportation options like Uber, people are more likely not to drive when impaired which saves lives. Nearly 25% of all Uber rides are taken during peak times for drunk driving-related incidents.

Uber presented to the White House Conference on Aging their ongoing efforts to engage the senior community. These efforts include providing free workshops to teach older adults how to use the Uber app, and offering a free first ride. Palm Beach County has a large senior population whose mobility options become increasingly limited as they age. Seniors either become isolated, must rely on family and friends, or continue to drive even though it may be unsafe for them to operate a vehicle. Uber can be an affordable and reliable option for seniors. Click on the link for a two-minute video on how Uber increases mobility options for older adults: https://youtu.be/n4d6LVLCdcA

Payment for an Uber trip is automatically deducted from the user’s credit/debit card on file, eliminating the need for carrying cash. The Uber app also allows users to easily split a fare between multiple riders traveling together. Once a trip is completed a receipt is automatically emailed to the passenger which includes a map with a highlighted route the vehicle took, trip length, and time taken for the trip. This prevents the common complaint about taxi services whose drivers could take a longer route to increase the fare with no way of monitoring to prevent this.

Benefits of Uber in Palm Beach County:
Tourists and business travelers from most major cities have Uber service and expect it to be accessible. Palm Beach County will appear behind the times if we do not have Uber.

With short Uber trips averaging $5 – $7, individuals who use Palm Tran Connection at $3 each way may choose Uber for local trips. With Palm Tran Connection rides costing the county an average $32 each way, the county could save significant amounts of tax dollars while providing less trips as the use of Uber grows in the senior and disabled communities who use Palm Tran Connection. This will be essential over the next ten years as more baby boomers retire and age in Palm Beach County and increase the demand on Palm Tran Connection service.

The trend of people moving to urban communities such as West Palm Beach is to be able to live in close proximity to work and daily activities without having to drive a car. These individuals and families want to have services like Uber as a transportation option. Uber also promotes the use of mass transportation options such as Palm Tran buses and Tri-Rail. Individuals can take the bus or train to go long distances, then use Uber for the shorter distances from where the mass transit option ends to reach their final destination. For example, an individual wishing to visit a friend’s house may be willing to take a Palm Tran bus down US1 for several miles, but would not want to walk 7 blocks on smaller local streets once they get off the US1 bus. This is when they would call Uber and for a few dollars get to their destination without feeling the need to own a car.

A small percentage of the $1.00 safe rider fee Uber charges for each trip could go to the county for oversight of the Uber service to ensure safety.

Uber helps the economy by giving Palm Beach County residents who want to be Uber drivers reliable and dependable work with a fair living wage. In the one year Uber has been in South Florida it has provided over 15,000 drivers with either full or part-time work. It is up to each individual driver when and how long they want to work by simply turning on/off their cell phone app when they are available to provide a trip. Uber drivers receive 80% of each fare and can be an Uber driver full-time and make a living wage or part-time to supplement their income. Click this link to watch a one-minute video on why people choose to be Uber drivers: https://youtu.be/_somDg9Mzrg

Thank you for taking an interest in improving transportation options in South Florida.

All the best,
Tomas Boiton
Citizens For Improved Transit, Founder

South Florida’s Newest Old Rail

South Florida’s Newest Old Rail

South Florida is going back to it rail roots.  As a region, much of the development and growth in this area over the last century or so can be attributed to Henry Flagler and his Flagler East Coast (FEC) Railroad (and of course, Julia Tuttle who played no small role in attracting Flagler’s interest and investment).

As development boomed and the era of the automobile emerged, Flagler’s railroad, which was never truly considered commuter rail, was overshadowed by huge investments in roadway and highway construction.  Interstate 95, running almost in parallel to the FEC railroad in South Florida, became emblematic of how people moved and the railroad was seen as the transporter of freight.

Today all of South Florida finds itself at an interesting crossroads.  Through a combination of generational shifts, economic conditions, land scarcity, attention to environmental preservation and renewed interest in urban areas, much of the region is experiencing a change in perception particularly with regards to mobility.

No longer is the private automobile seen as the only real choice for getting around. Much of South Florida is beginning to see that cars alone are not the ideal way to move people and planning for an auto-dominated city leads to a variety of urban and human ills.  Such is the moment that All Aboard Florida has stepped into the role of regional transit provider.

The conversation started, publicly at least, around 2012.  All Aboard Florida, run by FECI, a sister company of the original FEC Railroad, has created rather large scale plans for Flagler’s rail line.  The company is moving forward with the creation of train service between Miami and Orlando, with service expected to start in 2016.   FECI isn’t just taking on rail service though; the company is planning a major mixed use development and train station on several downtown Miami blocks.  Read more about their plans here.

All Aboard Florida estimates that it will take 3 million cars off the road annually with its rail service that connects travelers between Miami and Orlando in about three hours and trim nearly an hour off of travel time between Miami and West Palm Beach.   While this rail service will not provide local commuter rail, it may play an important part in establishing local service.  The Tri-Rail Coastal Link project is pushing to add Tri-Rail service along the FEC line to run alongside All Aboard’s trains.  While still in the planning stages, Tri-Rail Coastal Link would fill in the gap for local commuters between Jupiter and downtown Miami with the possible addition of about 28 new train stations between the two cities.

Both projects could have an enormous impact on South Florida’s mobility, connectivity, economy, urban development and sustainability.  Citizens for Improved Transit will be monitoring both projects and providing updates as available.  Join our newsletter to stay informed.

Palm Beach Quite Zone Funds Secured

Palm Beach Quite Zone Funds Secured

According to the All Aboard website, All Aboard Florida, the Palm Beach Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization announced on August 13, 2014 that funding had been secured to create a continuous quiet zone between the City of Hallandale Beach and downtown West Palm Beach along the Florida East Coast Railway.