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Uber, Lyft sign Livable Cities pledge, plan to shape future of urban transit

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15 transit and tech companies sign voluntary compact promoting equity, environmental, and social concerns

Lyft passengers and drivers in a Lyft ride on February 3, 2016 in San Francisco.
Getty Images for Lyft

City streets have gotten crowded, and it’s not just due to more cars. Between the race to develop autonomous vehicle technology, the growth in ride-sharing and bikesharing, and the continued refinement of electric vehicles, more companies are competing to shape the future of urban transit.

Earlier today, 15 leading technology and transportation companies announced the Shared Mobility Principles for Livable Cities, a voluntary set of rules and principles meant to help steer the future of transportation towards solutions that address equity, environmental, and social concerns.

The initial signatories—Uber and Lyft, as well as BlaBlaCar, Citymapper, Didi, Keolis, LimeBike, Mobike, Motivate, Ofo, Ola, Scoot Networks, Via, and Zipcar—account for 77 million passenger trips per day and inform the travel decisions of 10 million people each day, according to a statement released by the World Resources Institute, the organization which facilitated the agreement.

An autonomous shuttle in Las Vegas, operated by Keolis

The non-binding principles are general ideas. But they suggest a vision of a multimodal, more sustainable solution to urban mobility, especially if companies truly live up to these principles, and collaborated closely with cities to make them a reality.

Principles such as prioritizing people over vehicles, supporting the shared and efficient use of “vehicles, lanes, curbed, and land,” and pushing towards open data and fair user fees would, if followed, fulfill many wishlists for urban transit advocates. The group also pledged to “lead the transition towards a zero-emission future and renewable energy.”

City transit officials would be especially happy if Uber and Lyft, which haven’t been completely forthcoming about sharing transit information, would do more than “aim for public benefits via open data” and truly share data. During a press call yesterday, Lyft Vice President of Government Relations Joe Okpaku said ride-share companies need to figure out how to share data with partners and cities in a way that is “protecting the very legitimate privacy interests of our consumers.”

Representatives from both ride-hailing companies also said they support the use of congestion pricing to ease traffic. Uber and Lyft have been criticized lately after some studies have shown the growth of these services has increased total miles driven in the cities where they operate.

Limebike bikes in Seattle
Sarah Anne Lloyd

”For most cities, urban planners, legislators and residents, there is a cacophony of advice,” said Robin Chase, the founder of Zipcar and a WRI Board Director. “Our goal is to align cities, the private sector and civil society around a shared vision to ensure we harness the good and avoid the bad of new business models and technologies.”

Chase developed the principles along with a working group of city, transport, and environmental organizations including the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Transportation for America (T4America), Rocky Mountain Institute, Shared-Use Mobility Center, and WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities.