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Digital Subscriptions > Newsweek International > 30th September 2016 > READY FOR THE L-POCALYPSE?


The shutdown of a major subway line in New York City could be a huge disaster—but an even bigger opportunity



LAST YEAR, Altamonte Springs, Florida, a suburb of Orlando, learned that it could not use the $1.5 million it had designated for FlexBus, a bus service whose fleet would be dispatched according to user demand indicated via kiosks. The city had a SunRail commuter train station, but also the first-mile–last-mile problem many municipalities face: For residents who don’t live next to the station, getting there was a commute. And if you’re already driving a decent distance to light rail in Altamonte Springs, you might as well keep going and drive yourself to Orlando.

FlexBus would trade fixed routes for the needs of users, eliminating the prospect of steaming at a bus shelter in the Florida humidity. Although the idea fell victim to politics, the money had already been set aside, so officials decided that instead of expanding public transit, they would use the funds for one of public transit’s main competitors: Uber.

Last spring, Altamonte Springs became the first municipality in the United States to make the ride-hailing company part of its mass transit infrastructure. It has done so by subsidizing 25 percent of all Uber rides to and from the SunRail station and 20 percent of any trip fully within city limits. “Our residents [and] our business owners like the fact that Uber puts transit options in their hands,” City Manager Frank Martz told NPR. “They don’t have to rely on public transit. They don’t have to rely on the fixed schedules. They don’t have to change their lives to fit the transit model.”

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