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Uber's latest acquisition should bring better public transit accessibility

The ride-hailing company has bought Atlanta-based Routematch.
Man with Spinal Cord Injury entering his accessible van
Huntstock via Getty Images
Andrew Tarantola
Andrew Tarantola|@terrortola|July 16, 2020 3:01 PM

Uber’s efforts to pivot towards becoming a software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider for local transit agencies continued on Thursday as the ride-hailing startup announced its acquisition of Atlanta-based Routematch.

Routematch offers accessibility services including trip planning, vehicle tracking, and payment tools for transit riders with additional needs — both in public transportation settings like subways and busses as well as more specialized paratransit services. The company had already partnered with more than 500 urban, suburban, and rural transit agencies around the world at the time of its acquisition.

This isn’t Uber’s first foray into public transit services. David Reich, Head of Uber Transit, notes in Thursday’s blog post that the company has been partnering with transit agencies since 2015 to provide planning and ticketing services to riders.

Just last month, Uber inked a deal with Northern California’s Transportation Authority of Marin (TAM) and bus agency, Marin Transit. The resulting Connect2Transit program enables riders to book shared paratransit rides through the ride-hailing app itself, just as one would an UberPool.

“We’re always looking for ways we can complement public transit agencies and cities through our technology,” Shin-pei Tsay, Director of Policy, Cities and Transportation at Uber, told Cities Today in June. “This latest example is one we’re excited about pursuing with more partners, especially those looking for ways to increase accessibility for underserved populations and those with additional needs. With the ubiquity of Uber’s app, there’s a broader opportunity to team up using our consumer experience to address challenges transit agencies will continue to grapple with moving forward.”

The specifics of the acquisition were not disclosed but TechCrunch reports that operations at the 20-year-old 170-employee company are expected to continue unabated.

Uber’s track record with providing accessibility services through its standard ride-hailing platform has been mixed over the past few years. The company was sued in May 2017 and then again in July 2017 for failing to provide sufficiently accessible rides, then again in 2018 for refusing a ride to a woman with a service dog. The company went so far as to partner with MV Transportation in November 2018 to provide additional wheelchair accessible vans for its customers.

Uber's latest acquisition should bring better public transit accessibility