On The Awl, Matt Buchanan argues that Uber's ultimate goal is to replace public transit. Uber is already promoting Smart Routes and Suggested Pickup Points, effectively turning Uber into privately-owned mass transit. If this trend gains popularity, it may mean that only the poor will use public transportation, which will deteriorate to a point of being completely unusable.
One of the more subtle underlying issues with the rise of Uber is the company’s slow siphoning of the political will to fix existing—or build new—public transit infrastructure in major cities. In Affluence and Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America, Princeton Professor of Politics Martin Gilens shows that—as he put it in an article with Northwestern Professor of Decision Making Benjamin Page—“economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.” As the wealthy—and, as the prices of Uber and Lyft fall, the slightly less so—essentially remove themselves from the problems of existing mass transit infrastructure with Uber and other services, the urgency to improve or add to it diminishes. The people left riding public transit become, increasingly, the ones with little or no political weight to demand improvements to the system.
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