Completing the commute: Does Uber have a role in parking management?

By Mary Ebeling
The rapid rise of Transit Network Companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft has sparked a new round of innovations in transportation. While most early TNC success has been in large urban areas, the usefulness of these services for bridging first- and last-mile connections between home, work, and transit outside major urban centers is becoming apparent. A new pilot program in Summit, NJ, a bedroom community to New York City, illustrates an unexpected and important benefit of targeted use of TNCs: parking management. Summit’s experiment could influence future policy decisions related to parking in smaller cities.
Summit, a historic community with a population just over 20,000, has a train station that takes commuters into New York and other destinations. The city has five parking structures but with limited modal options to reach the station without driving, parking demand outstrips supply. In lieu of building additional parking capacity—estimated to cost approximately $10 million for construction—plus annual maintenance, Summit will pay Uber an estimated $167,000 a year to provide door-to-door service between commuters’ homes and the train station. The pilot subsidizes Uber rides for those who do not already have a parking pass. The cost to commuters would be $2 each way, the same cost as the $4 per day parking. Residents who have already paid for a parking pass can ride Uber for free, and Summit will reimburse Uber for the full cost of the trip.
While several communities have worked with TNCs to establish programs to help bridge the first- and last-mile connections to transit, Summit’s Mayor points out, “… Our program is the first of its kind in the United States to use ride-sharing technology as a parking solution. Our innovation has the potential to shape how municipalities think about and implement parking options in the future.”
Mary Ebeling is a Transportation Policy Analyst at SSTI.