Is carpooling a sustainable transport solution for non-profit organizations? – Next city
From getting clients to eye appointments in rural areas to more regular transportation to everything from food banks to regular case management appointments, nonprofits have their work cut out for transportation to them. With a patchwork of resources like public transit and volunteer rides, most nonprofits can meet many of their transportation needs, but rarely all. And those who remain?
Many nonprofits have started using ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft to fill in the gaps by coordinating rides for their customers, but since the platforms weren’t designed to meet this need, it can be a complicated and expensive endeavor. “It’s not as easy as giving people money to get around,” says Staci Sahoo, director of mobility management at Hopelink, a nonprofit based in Redmond, Washington. However, the services add unique value. “They fill a void. We had someone who suffered vision loss, ”she says of a case where Hopelink used carpooling services for a client who needed to see an ophthalmologist. “It really changed my perception of where they can fill a gap.”
In 2016, there were around 1.54 million nonprofits like Sahoo’s registered with the IRS, which is a 4.5% increase from 2006. From food security to housing to the next level. through health care, US nonprofits provide essential services across the country. But to serve people, people need to be able to get to where nonprofits are located – a challenge in areas where people don’t own cars or have access to reliable public transportation.
That’s why many nonprofits offer and organize transportation for their customers through ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft. A new report aims to shed light on the role that ridesharing services play in the accessibility of non-profit offers.
Dyana Mason, an assistant professor in the School of Planning, Public Policy, and Management at the University of Oregon, co-authored the study, funded in part by the National Institute of Transportation and Communities.
“What brought me to this research is that cities could face some pretty dramatic changes over the next 10, 20, 30 years as new technologies,” like self-driving cars, ”are introduced. implemented, ”she says. “I just wanted to make sure that people who already have difficulty accessing transportation are not left behind further as policy makers and planners consider how to overhaul their transit systems.”
Overall, Mason’s study, conducted in the Seattle area, found that ridesharing services are absolutely used by nonprofits as a way to organize transportation for customers, but that there are several obstacles that prevent them from becoming as used and useful as they are. could be, mainly the cost. The use of ridesharing services in many cases relies on grants in a variety of forms, ranging from grant funding to direct partnerships with Uber or Lyft, making them an affordable option for many nonprofits. Otherwise, rides can cost as much as $ 50 or more, which quickly becomes prohibitive for small nonprofits or their clients.
A participant in Mason’s study, who has a disability, told him:
“The Uber advantage was so, so important because I wouldn’t have to deal with the physical exhaustion of being on my feet for the first hour of my day. Like, you know, you’re barely awake and it’s just not a good time. So, uh, even though it was costing me – and it’s like an obscene amount, like $ 400 a month over an average month – I was more than happy to do it because of the physical benefits it gave me not to. not have to use the trainer. “
Mason found that nonprofits also spend a lot of time helping their customers use carpooling. “One thing I have found is that due to the way rideshare services are being used right now, they require a lot of staff time capacity for the organization to use their services,” Mason says.
This is often because nonprofits have to help coordinate trips for customers who don’t have smartphones. The association books the trip on behalf of the client and may need to resolve any issues along the way, from traffic delays to changes in pick-up locations.
Sahoo says she has seen the problem of access to technology crop up a lot during the current immunization program they are running. Hope Link strives to get community members to vaccination sites through a variety of transportation options, one of which is self-help services.
“We set up a vaccine helpline where we coordinated vaccination hikes,” she explains. “Especially for older people who speak a different language, there is still a lot of grip that needs to take place.”
She also says accessibility can be another barrier as there aren’t many wheelchair accessible Uber and Lyft vehicles. (Uber and Lyft have been sued in several cities for failing to provide enough wheelchair accessible vehicles, or after incidents in which drivers refused to help wheelchair users.), But it also quickly went downhill. noted the benefits of using carpooling services, mainly that they fill the gaps left by existing transportation options. “We are grateful to them. There is a role they play in the community, but they can’t serve everyone, so how do we get them to play that role rather than being a central provider? “
For Sahoo, it’s a question of money. “One of the lessons I learned from the research was that we not only need the funds to provide [ride hailing services] to nonprofits, but I would say maybe we need to go further, ”she says. “The funds are great, I will never say no to the money, but the flexibility with the existing funding would be great,” Sahoo adds, explaining that if using the money for carpooling was an acceptable use for others. transportation funds, groups like his could make the most of all the options available.
Ultimately, the report offers several recommendations: development of training by philanthropic organizations for non-profit organizations to learn best practices for offering ridesharing services, additional funding to specifically offer ridesharing services and support carpooling companies in the development of two accessible transportation options. and the development of interfaces and promotional codes specifically for non-profit use.
While this study is new, Mason and Sahoo expect interest in the region to only increase as transportation evolves in the future.
“I think [ride hailing services] could be more useful, ”Mason says. “My study found that nonprofits use them to meet the needs of their clients, but there are barriers to making it a big part of their job and the main one is money. “
“It’s not a unique situation,” Sahoo says. “Everyone’s transportation needs are extremely unique, and we need to make sure they get the right transportation for their needs.
Cinnamon Janzer is a freelance journalist based in Minneapolis. His work has been featured in National Geographic, US News & World Report, Rewire.news, and more. She holds a master’s degree in social design, with a focus on intervention design, from the Maryland Institute College of Art and a bachelor’s degree in cultural anthropology and fine arts from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.