SUMMIT, NJ — Beginning in the mid 1950s, a certain bus company urged Americans to "Leave the Driving to Us."
Flash forward sixty years, and that concept— implemented in a 21st Century way — may prove to achieve a dual purpose — giving Summit commuters a stress free, economical alternative to their daily trek to mass transit, and also serving to alleviate the Hilltop City parking squeeze that had City leaders thinking about constructing a new parking structure.
The City of Summit has partnered with San Francisco-based Uber to launch New Jersey’s first ridesharing commuter program, with Summit residents who have purchased prepaid parking permits eligible for free Uber rides to and from the station during weekday commuting hours; and residents -- without prepaid permits -- eligible for $2 Uber rides, which is equivalent to the cost of the City’s $4 daily parking.
The six-month pilot program is limited to the first 100 registrants, with the City estimating that an equal amount of parking spaces will be made available through this program. According to the City, more than 50 residents have already signed up.
As a result, the City claims it does now not have an immediate need to build a new parking lot on public ground and will save an estimated $5 million in taxpayer dollars over the next 20 years. Thousands of Summit residents currently use Uber. More than 40 percent of pickups in the town end at the train station, and 30 percent of pickups in evening end in Summit.
“As an alternative transportation option, ridesharing is not new,” explains Summit Mayor Nora Radest. “But our program is the first of its kind in the United States to use ridesharing technology as a parking solution. Our innovation has the potential to shape how municipalities think about and implement parking options in the future.”
Summit resident Jonathan Kurowski, who works in the banking industry, took the first ride of the new program, arriving at the Summit train station shortly after 8:15 a.m. Kurowski said his day began in typical fashion as he was "woken up by my screaming toddlers" but he deviated from his normal commuting routine by calling for an Uber car, with the driver arriving "two minutes later."
Kurowski described his experience as ''super easy," and noted that it may render obsolete his need for a second family car — he uses his vehicle mainly to drive to and from the Summit train station. Kurowski also said that getting a ride to the station was stress free— he didn't have to deal with traffic and weather won't be an issue — and the program takes a car off the road which is environmentally-friendly.
“This new pilot program offers an excellent approach to reducing the daily demand for parking in Summit,” reports Common Council President Mike McTernan. “By partnering with Uber, we will be freeing up about 100 spaces that can be used by other residents or employees during the day. The program has the potential to be a win-win for our local businesses, commuters and our taxpayers.”
“This pioneering program will make it easier for Summit commuters to get to NJ Transit and save the City taxpayers’ money at the same time,” said Ana Mahony, Uber New Jersey General Manager. “When local commuters ran out of parking space, the city’s leaders wanted to come up with a new way to both solve the problem and bring Summit into the future. Uber is always eager to work with local communities and help bring positive change and innovation to New Jersey.”
The initial pilot program could be expanded if successful, and all trips must begin or end within Summit or at the train station and be completed Monday through Friday between the hours of 5 a.m. and 9 p.m.
To register for the program or to obtain further information, visit cityofsummit.org.