Council Members: City of Cincinnati Should Study Creating a Single App for Buses, Scooters and Rideshare

Council members Tamaya Dennard and Greg Landsman want the city to study the possibility of creating a single app from which riders can select and pay for rides from SORTA, rideshare, bike-share and scooter rental companies

click to enlarge A Metro bus at Government Square in downtown Cincinnati - Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell
A Metro bus at Government Square in downtown Cincinnati

Right now, people without their own cars in Cincinnati navigate an array of transportation options including the bus, rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft and short-distance options like rental scooters from Bird and Lime or bike-shares like Cincinnati Red Bike.

Now, Cincinnati City Council members Greg Landsman and Tamaya Dennard want city administration to look into bringing all of those options together in a single smartphone application.

The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority is reportedly looking into updating its app, Cincy EZRide, which helps riders pay for bus rides and know when a bus is coming. Landsman and Dennard have drafted a motion that would direct the city to study the possibility of partnering with rideshare, bike-share and rental scooter companies to include those options in an app.

"We understand that SORTA is looking to build a new app for bus services, and believe that the City should partner with SORTA to expand any new platform to include all transit options in the most integrated and user-friendly way possible," the motion says.

The idea comes as Metro has struggled with funding shortfalls, lagging ridership and performance issues for years, and activists and riders have called for improvements. SORTA passed on putting a Hamilton County sales tax levy on the November ballot earlier this year that could have helped fund the bus system and shore up a $184 million deficit it faces over the next decade. Currently, Metro gets most of its funding from a City of Cincinnati earnings tax, an unusual arrangement for a regional transit authority. It also gets some money from the state, though Ohio has one of the lowest levels of transit funding in the country —  a fact that looks unlikely to change under incoming governor Mike DeWine.

Even if the city's report comes back with a positive assessment for Dennard and Landsman's idea, it may not be a slam-dunk. Rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft, as well as scooter companies like Lime and Bird, have seen some controversy in Cincinnati and other cities where they have landed.

If the motion is assigned to a committee and passes, the city would have 30 days to issue a report on the proposal.

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