Written by Amanda Maher
Earlier this week, an article in the New York Times discussed the link between upward income mobility and transportation access. Two recent studies have concluded that this link is a critical one, with access to transportation enabling better access to jobs throughout the city and region. While public transit remains an important factor for many workers, the ridesharing service Uber is also helping to make a difference in the lives of inner city residents.
Last week, Uber, ICIC, the Boston chapter of the NAACP and several community leaders gathered at Hibernian Hall for the launch of Uber’s Urban Partnership (UberUP) in Boston. UberUP is an initiative aimed at bringing Uber’s entrepreneurial opportunities to traditionally underserved communities, with the goal of onboarding 50,000 new urban drivers (“partners”) from inner cities around the U.S. – and 5,000 of those from Boston. ICIC has partnered with Uber to help implement the initiative in 15 East Coast markets.
Speaking at the event, Boston NAACP President Michael Curry said that Uber is helping to create jobs for low-income residents. Pointing out that Boston is still economically and racially segregated and that Roxbury’s unemployment rate is nearly twice as high as Boston’s as a whole, he said that “UberUP creates a vehicle – pun intended – for communities of color.”
Uber recently commissioned an independent analysis that found the company is already creating opportunities for a racially diverse group of drivers (19.5 percent Black, 16.5 percent Asian, and 17.7 percent Hispanic). Given the low barriers to entry, little formal education is required; less than 50 percent of all partners have a college degree. In some cases, partners already have full- or part-time employment and use the Uber platform for supplementary income; in other cases partners use it as their primary income. A large majority (71 percent) of partners report that Uber boosts their income and financial security.
The same study found that while hourly wages vary – across types of drivers (UberBLACK and uberX), across metros and depending on the time of day – partners almost always earn more than double their local minimum wage. Across the U.S., partners earn $19.19 per hour on average; in Boston, the average was over $20 per hour. Gontrand Germain, an Uber partner, spoke of this opportunity at the UberUP launch event. Since becoming a driver two years ago, he said, he has recruited his father and two brothers to join him as partners.
Another important benefit of Uber, cited by NCAAP President Curry, is Uber’s accessibility to low-income customers. The trend of taxis discriminating against minority riders or refusing to drive to low-income neighborhoods has been well documented. According to an Uber analysis of data from a Boston Globe special report, residents in underserved neighborhoods like Roslindale and Dorchester routinely waited more than 20 minutes for a taxi to arrive. Uber provides residents with a faster alternative. In fact, the median wait time for an Uber ride in Boston is just 3.5 minutes today. Access to more reliable, safe transportation can make a positive change in the lives of residents of these neighborhoods.
While the impact of Uber on its employees and on urban communities is still emerging, early signs are promising. By offering reliable transportation and entrepreneurial opportunities to inner city residents, Uber is helping to drive inner city economic prosperity, and in so doing, advances ICIC’s mission. ICIC is proud to partner with Uber to increase economic opportunity in inner cities across the U.S.