BRUSSELS — Ride-hailing app Uber said on Monday it was joining a global public transport association to improve mobility in the cities it operates in, although North America's largest public transit union said there was no place for the U.S. company.
Uber's move to join the International Association of Public Transportation (UITP) is part of a drive by Uber to improve its relationships with local authorities after a series of regulatory and legal setbacks.
UITP represents public transport providers around the world, including Transport for London (TfL) — which in September stripped Uber of its operating licence.
Scandal-hit Uber has just had to reassure authorities it is changing the way it does business after the disclosure of a massive data breach coverup that has prompted investigations from regulators around the world.
Andrew Salzberg, Uber's head of transportation policy and research, said aligning the company with public transport authorities was a good way to make Uber a better partner for cities.
Uber, currently valued at US$69 billion, has been testing a more collaborative approach to regulators under its new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi in a shift away from a more aggressive culture under former CEO Travis Kalanick.
"One of the big emphases that Dara has made ... is that we want to be better partners for the cities we operate in," Salzberg said.
Uber said it would work on a series of training sessions with UITP aimed at connecting people better with public transport.
Salzberg said the company also wanted to help reduce congestion on roads by encouraging people to move to shared modes of transport.
Alain Flausch, secretary general of UITP, said Uber's decision to join the association was a sign that the company wanted a better relationship with regulators.
Flausch said he had told members of UITP that he would check the company stuck to its promises.
"It's a work in progress and having Uber join is a good sign. Of course they keep their business model but ... they need to be a bit more flexible and open to talking," he told Reuters.
However, Larry Hanley, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), which represents public transit employees in the United States and Canada, said Uber should start being a better partner to the cities it operates in by "paying a living wage to their drivers who call those cities home."
"Public transportation should serve the public good, and until Uber demonstrates that they meet that standard they have no business being a part of the International Association of Public Transport," Hanley said.