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Why Is Altamonte Springs Paying For Uber Rides?

Altamonte Springs announces it will help pay for Uber rides to try and boost SunRail ridership./Photo: Catherine Welch

Altamonte Springs commuters can now get help from the city to pay for part of their Uber rides. While Tampa launched a similar program to help commuters get to bus stops, Altamonte’s program is designed to boost SunRail ridership.

Open the Uber app inside Altamonte Springs and the technology will be able to tell if the rider stayed inside city limits, and where they went. If they rode around Altamonte, then the city picks up 20 percent of the tab. If they rode to or from the SunRail station, the city picks up 25 percent.

City Manager Frank Martz said this is one way to link the train to the city’s business center. “So anything we can do to help users potentially start choosing to take SunRail is important, and the key is convenience,” he said.

State lawmakers couldn’t agree on regulations for the ride-sharing industry before this year’s session ended. A bill that passed in the House would have set up insurance and background check requirements on a state level, and blocked local governments from adding on to those requirements.

As far as Martz is concerned, the legislature can hash out regulations while Altamonte Springs takes advantage of what Uber has to offer.

“Our city doesn’t see our role as a decider of who wins in these regulatory battles. So however the legislature decides to deal with this, it’s up to them,” said Martz. “What we want to do is embrace as many alternatives for residents and our business community as possible, and that’s why we reached out to them.”

Martz said there’s enough money budgeted for the one-year test run. But The Washington Post quotes an economist concerned that its popularity could blow up Altamonte Springs’ budget. There is $500,000 in the budget to pay for Uber rides, but Martz said there’s more available if needed.

Altamonte Springs had money set aside, he said, to fund a similar “flex bus” program that would use Lynx buses to get people around town on demand. But that program never got started.

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About Catherine Welch

Catherine Welch