Uber Is Testing A Phone Dispatch System For Low-Income Riders

Eligible Pinellas County Riders Can Have One Ride A Month Fully Subsidized

Jun 15, 2016 at 9:52 AM ET

One of the benefits of Uber is you never have to pick up the phone to order a car. But for some Uber riders in Florida. that might become an option.  The company is testing a phone dispatch service in Florida that will allow people who don’t have smartphones to actually call for a ride.

This isn’t a play on nostalgia however. Spearheaded by the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, the plan is meant to help financially-disadvantaged riders—ones who may not own smartphones—get around town more easily.

Under the guidelines, qualifying citizens would be able to call into the PTSA-operated hotline, and be granted one subsidized ride per month in situations deemed as “urgent.” According to the Verge, this will be left to the discretion of the operator, but could range from grocery shopping to medical emergencies. The rider would simply be required to pay a $3 flat fee.

The PSTA is the first transit agency to begin subsidizing Uber rides—having just received a $300,000 grant from the state of Florida in order to do so—and will begin taking calls on July 18. But this isn’t the first partnership between the two groups: The PTSA first began subsidizing rides to and from bus stops in February with its Direct Connect program, which covers half of an Uber fare to and from a bus stop.

Uber, for its part, will also provide the technology that will send call-in riders to its regular drivers. Pinellas County will pay Uber directly for everything save for the $3 fee.

Vocativ reached out to Uber for comment on its plans in Pinellas County, but has yet to receive a response. It may sound a little counterintuitive that Uber—a startup built around smartphones—is catering to those without, but for transit disadvantaged people it might make life a little easier.