Rockford exploring partnership with Uber, says smartphone app could fill transportation gaps

Industrials Associated Press

The city of Rockford is considering a publicly funded partnership with Uber, the company whose GPS-based smartphone app connects people with the nearest taxi or rideshare car at the click of a button.

Continue Reading Below

Mayor Larry Morrissey sees it as a way to fill gaps in the city's public transportation network and help residents get to jobs in places not served by buses. Such a partnership would be a first for the 5-year-old tech company, said Uber Chicago General Manager Chris Taylor.

The idea is still in the brainstorming phase, but it is possible the city could use federal grants to help subsidize people's trips in Uber cars, so long as they are to and from work, Morrissey tells the Rockford Register Star (http://bit.ly/1vcgyr3 ).

The arrangement could also help people who are on bus routes but who work non-traditional hours and are commuting during non-peak service or at times when buses are not running.

"We have a lot of gaps in our public transportation system," Morrissey said. "If someone has a third-shift opportunity and we don't have a bus route that is timely or even available at all, this may be a solution that we can support as a community."

Currently, the city funnels federal grant money to the Northern Illinois Workforce Alliance to pay for buses to and from work sites. But there are after-hours gaps and areas that aren't served.

Continue Reading Below

Morrissey said some of that money could go to pay for a rider's first six months of transportation using Uber and limit it to work trips.

Uber representatives met with Morrissey recently to discuss bringing service to the city and could be ready in as little as two weeks, Taylor said.

Rockford and nearby municipalities must first craft rules for regulating ridesharing services.

___

Information from: Rockford Register Star, http://www.rrstar.com