Uber is set to begin providing cities with its transit data, according to a blog post from the company released earlier today. Boston will be the first city to get Uber’s data, which is anonymized trip-level data by ZIP Code Tabulation Area (ZCTA) – the U.S. Census’ geographical representation of zip codes.
This isn’t the first time Uber has shared its data, but it is the first time it is doing so as part of a broader effort to work with municipal governments where it operates. Notably, despite the flowery and positive language surrounding the program in the company’s blog post, Uber is currently in a fight with New York City over sharing the exact same data. In fact, New York suspended nearly all of Uber’s bases last week and is demanding data be turned over. Uber is also the only car service in New York that opposes proposed measure to require this kind of transit data from car services.
No details were provided in the blog post on the specifics of the deal between Uber and Boston, which could explain its opposition in NYC, if the company plans to make money from data sharing. We have reached out to the city to find out what, if anything the deal will cost local taxpayers.
Boston recently voted to recognize Uber’s services, but the company has had a contentious relationship with most local regulators where it operates. That relationship is poised to get worse before it gets better, with a handful of municipalities currently considering regulatory reactions to the service. Popular outrage over Uber’s practice of price gouging consumers with its so-called “surge pricing” have also made it a target for regulatory scrutiny.
Uber has recently hired several new faces to focus on issues ranging from user privacy, to improving the public image of the company. The data sharing initiative is just the latest in these efforts.
Newly elected Mayor Marty Walsh had this to say in a statement – “We are using data to change the way we deliver services and we welcome the opportunity to add to our resources. This will help us reach our transportation goals, improve the quality of our neighborhoods and allow us to think smarter, finding more innovative and creative solutions to some of our most pressing challenges.”
** Updated: A spokesperson for the Mayor’s office in Boston returned our query about the partnership arrangement and confirmed that Boston will not be paying for the data from Uber.