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Metro to fund Uber, Lyft or cabs as substitute for late-night service

With Metro hours due to remain limited for the foreseeable future, Metro plans to pay cabs or a company like Uber or Lyft $1 million to slightly discount trips for certain people rather than provide alternative bus or other service.

The official request for proposals finalized last week and publicized Wednesday asks companies to outline how they would serve pre-approved people who work in restaurants, hotels or hospitals for trips between midnight and 4 a.m.

Metro is offering to pay $3 of the cost of the trip when riders have “limited transportation options during the hours when Metrorail is not operating,” but riders would have to pay the rest of the fare. The contracting documents ask for estimates of how far a rider could go for $20.

Uber, Lyft and similar companies have been cutting into Metro ridership at the busiest times of day, but Metro leaders believe supporting them during overnight hours could be the best use of public money when there are fewer people trying to get around.

The subsidy would not be available to anyone other than pre-approved riders who have proven that they have work hours requiring a trip between midnight and 4 a.m. and would only be provided for trips that both start and end within jurisdictions served by Metro (D.C., Prince George’s County, Montgomery County, Arlington County, Fairfax County, Alexandria, the City of Fairfax and Falls Church).

To register, riders would need to provide their name, employer name and contact details, SmarTrip information and work hours. Metro would get a list of trips taken, including pickup and drop-off locations.

Each rider would be limited to no more than 10 trips per week, and the entire program could be capped in a given month to ensure some amount of the subsidy is available for an entire year.

Metro is also reserving the right to change the subsidy amount, change the hours of the program, and change the area where riders are permitted to take the discounted trips. While the initial contract would be for one year starting this summer, it would come with two option years Metro could use to extend the program into 2022.

Technically, Metro’s current hours are only in place until July 1, 2020, but Metro management has advised against any changes in the near future.

Proposals are due April 10, which Metro believes would allow the program to begin this summer.
The program would be similar to Metro’s AbilitiesRide program, which is meant to provide cheaper and quicker service to certain MetroAccess riders.

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