Opinion

Driving Community Change

Communities are built on networks. Personal relationships, connections between citizens and their elected officials and a common sense of purpose are all necessary for growth and sustainability.

Over 100 years in service of supporting these principles has allowed the National Urban League to understand that no detail is too small in guaranteeing that our prosperous cities remain strong and our struggling urban centers have a path to greatness. The National Urban League was founded as a grassroots movement to ensure equitable economic opportunities for all. Today we are proud to announce that National Urban League and Lyft Inc. are joining forces to advance ride-hailing services for every community, especially those that are underserved.

Transportation equity and economic justice are some of the most pervasive challenges of our time. Among the many basic ingredients for personal success is freedom of movement, yet access to transportation continues to be a problem for African-American communities across the country.

Research from the Brookings Institution found that only 27 percent of jobs in the top 100 U.S. metro areas are reachable within 90 minutes of transit. And Harvard research has found that the No. 1 factor in pulling people out of poverty is commute time. Communities of color have a long history of being disproportionately affected by the shortcomings in existing transportation infrastructure. As a last-mile connector or a reliable ride when transit options are limited, ride-booking is solving the problem of our disconnected and disenfranchised communities.

Our cities were built around reliance on a personal vehicle but those who lack the resources find themselves at a disadvantage. Across the country, 20 percent of families at or below the federal poverty line lack access to a car. The percentage of low-income African-American families without a car is even higher at 33 percent. A lack of reliable transportation often means arriving late for job interviews, missed medical appointments, or difficulty accessing the many enrichments that cities offer. We can now move past that.

Something remarkable is happening in our neighborhoods. Over one quarter of Lyft rides start in an underserved census tract. The millions of rides originating from these neighborhoods reveal significant demand that was not being met just a few years ago and community business owners saw an additional $750 million in local spending from riders in 2016 alone.

Lyft also provides a unique economic opportunity for those that choose to drive. Sixty-eight percent of drivers self-identify as part of a minority group and 25 percent of drivers identify as Afro-Caribbean or African-American. A remarkable 88 percent of African-American drivers indicate that they have given a ride to a neighbor. Neighbors driving neighbors was the idea that made Lyft the first peer-to-peer ride-booking product on the market. African-Americans are embracing Lyft, infusing neighborhoods with safety, community and opportunity like never before.

This new, flexible economic opportunity is empowering waves of new entrepreneurs and helping those trying to make ends meet — from students driving to pay for textbooks to parents who drive with Lyft to help put food on the table or finance a personal business.

Moving forward, National Urban League and Lyft commit to dig deeper together, to expand access to transportation, to grow economic opportunities, to ensure that the Lyft platform is inclusive of all communities, and to see that the diversity in the passenger and driver community is reflected internally at Lyft. We both agree that there is a lot of work to do to ensure that ride-hailing is equal and accessible to all. We are confident we will continue to make positive progress.

To kick things off, Lyft will provide ride credits to local Urban League affiliates in Seattle, Sacramento, New Orleans and Chicago. These rides will support the local workforce development programs that help job seekers get to interviews, that help women entrepreneurs write business plans and much more.

Changing lives and changing cities are the shared pillars that have brought National Urban League and Lyft together. And together, we will make change in a bigger, more equal way.

Marc Morial is the president of the National Urban League. Logan Green is the CEO of Lyft.

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