Uber Partners with D.C. on the Future of Urban Mobility

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By Hamzat Sani, Special to the AFRO

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi made his first trip to Washington, D.C. memorable. Clad in a pink dress shirt and pocket square, a seeming nod to DC’s popular Cherry Blossom season, the 48-year-old executive from Iran unleashed a series of announcements bound to change the landscape of mobility in the District.

At the future site of Uber’s Greenlight Hub in the East River Park Shopping Center on Minnesota Avenue, the former head of Expedia joined Mayor Muriel Bowser and Stephen Goldsmith of the Harvard Kennedy School for a conversation on the future of mobility moderated by Robert Puentes President and CEO of the Eno Center for Transportation.

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser (left) and Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi (right) discuss the future of mobility in the District. (Courtesy Photo)

Community stakeholders, transportation nerds and a full bullpen of local and national media gathered to hear Mayor Bowser, Khosrowshahi and Goldsmith discuss everything from the importance of social equity and job creation for the city’s underserved communities to the future of autonomous vehicles in the urban landscape.

Khosrowshahi got the ball rolling announcing that starting April 11, D.C. Uber users would be able to start ordering a JUMP eBike right from the Uber App. Uber Bike by JUMP is part of a the rideshare company’s larger strategy to become a global marketplace suite of Urban mobility options. Uber purchased JUMP on April 9 after a successful pilot partnership between the two companies in the San Francisco and D.C. markets.

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Next, the Uber CEO announced the SharedStreets Pilot, a collaborative project bringing both national and local stakeholders. The pilot will allow agencies to share, compile and analyze data on curb usage in Washington, DC to better enhance the transportation experience for multimodal users.

Stakeholders include  the National Association of City Transportation Officials, the Open Transport Partnership, the DC Departments of Transportation and For Hire Vehicles.

Uber announced a host of other projects it has in the works, including Uber Health a service that could allow patients to receive medication delivery while abiding HIPAA regulation. A significant theme was the company’s role in serving under-resourced communities such as Ward 7.

Bowser and Khosrowshahi made it clear that it was no accident that Uber located its DC Greenlight hub on Minnesota Avenue where a large number of the rideshare company’s contractors are located.  Deputy Mayor Courtney Snowden noted how essential it was for the city and the company to work together in providing transportation and delivery services throughout DC, including east of the river. “Every day Washingtonians rely on diverse modes of transportation to get to work, take their children to daycare, and to get access to quality healthcare. That is why, we are partnering with companies like Uber to help us use technology to move the needle on the intractable challenges faced by our communities.”

While Uber works on shaping the future of transportation Khosrowshahi noted that services like Uber Eats and Uber Pool are highly utilized by communities like Wards 7 and 8, with often no other food or delivery options. Many food delivery companies in DC do not serve East of the River residents.

In a poignant personal anecdote, the Mayor summed up the possibilities presented by enhancing partnerships with mobility companies like Uber. “I was surprised,” Bowser said. “My 8- plus-year-old parents are so willing to adopt technology. Them adopting that technology will allow them to age in their homes longer and longer. My mom will go down to arena stage using rideshare or be able to have delivery to their homes using delivery services.“

The official word on the D.C. partnership with Uber promises to be one that will enhance the urban mobility experience for everyone. Time will tell whether transportation investments and private sector partnerships will create equitable outcomes for those who call the District home.