Uber and Lyft Are Giving Discounted Rides to Vote on Tuesday. Here’s How To Get One
by Jennifer Calfas Time November 5, 2018
Unsure how you’re going to get to your polling station to vote in the 2018 midterm elections? You’re in luck.
A slew of ride-sharing companies and public transportation systems are offering free or discounted rides to polling booths for Americans around the country this Tuesday. The nationwide efforts to encourage voters to show up for Election Day 2018 come amid a hotly contested midterm election cycle, with a number of crucial Congressional races, gubernatorial challenges, local elections, and more.
The concerted effort from Uber, Lyft, and bike-sharing companies to make polling booths more easily accessible follows a number of studies that say access to transportation posed an issue for Americans who failed to make it to the polls in the past.
A Harvard University survey found about 14% of non-voters said transportation played a “major” role in their decision not to vote; 29% of voters ages 18 to 29 said it was why they didn’t either, according to an analysis from the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. And, according to the Pew Research Center, 3% of non-voters cited “transportation problems” as the top reason why.
As a result, it appears a slew of companies, transportation systems, organizations, nonprofits, and activists are working to ensure all registered voters can make their voices heard in the 2018 midterm election. More than 300 companies around the country have also implemented policies that allow employees to take paid time off to get to the polls, for example.
Here are some of the best deals and discounts on transportation to the polls this Tuesday.
$10 off an Uber ride to vote
Uber is offering $10 discounts on rides for users heading to the polls on Election Day. That discount only covers a single ride and can only be used on the cheapest option available. (So, it’s likely you’ll be taking an Uber POOL.)
To take advantage of your discount, first, make sure you have the latest version of the app downloaded.
Then, you’ll be able to find Uber’s Election Day promo code, which will be available on the app on Election Day. From there, you can go to your menu, tap “Payment,” and add the promo code.
On Nov. 6, the app will have a polling place locator. Enter your home address and your polling place will pop up. Then you can request a ride.
50% off a Lyft ride to vote — and free rides for underserved communities
Lyft riders will be able to access a promo code to get 50% off their rides on Election Day. Similar to the Uber app, Lyft users will be able to find their polling location on the Lyft app, the company says.
Since the ride-sharing company is partnering with BuzzFeed for the initiative, users can find their promo codes on BuzzFeed here by entering their zip code. Then, users can go to the menu on their Lyft apps and enter the promo code there.
Lyft will also be offering free rides to the polls for members of certain underserved communities. The company is working with several nonprofits, including Voto Latino, Student Vets of America, and the National Federation of the Blind — to find these voters and help them get to the polls.
And the company will celebrate Lyft drivers who complete these trips, “surprising select drivers across the country who give rides on November 6 with a special gift.”
Free bikes to vote in several major cities
Bike-sharing company Motivate, which operates a number of services in cities around the country, will be giving out free rides, too.
Bikers can use the promo code for their city — detailed here — on Nov. 6 to get a free day pass.
The free ride will be offered through these sharing services in the following cities:
Citibike in New York and Jersey City
Divvy in Chicago
Bluebikes in the Boston-metro area
Capital Bikeshare in the Washington, D.C.-metro area
Nice Ride Minnesota in Minneapolis
Ford GoBike in California’s Bay Area
BIKETOWN in Portland, Oregon
CoGo in Columbus, Ohio
Free scooter rides to vote
Lime, a scooter sharing company, will be offering free 30-minute rides on Nov. 6 to help voters get to the polls. To access the free ride, Lime users can enter the promo code LIME2VOTE18 into their app to get a free 30-minute trip.
“Transportation to the polls is often a challenge for many Americans on Election Day, so we’re doing our part to help,” Brad Bao, the co-founder of Lime, says.
Lime scooters are available at a number of cities around the country as well as college campuses. Check Lime’s map of locations here to see if your city (or school) has available scooters.
Free public transportation to vote
A number of public transportation systems around the country will offer free public transportation to the polls on Nov. 6. Los Angeles residents, for example, will be able to ride free on trains and buses on Election Day — a decision the board of the Metropolitan Transit Authority made unanimously despite an estimated $600,000 hit with the elimination of the city’s $1.75 fare, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Similar initiatives will take place in small and large cities around the country, including free round-trips in Houston, free bus trips with the presentation of a voter identification card in Tampa, and free bus rides in Knoxville, Tenn.
Check with your local public transportation authority to see if there are any free options in your city.
Free Rides to the Polls Test the Transit and Turnout Connection
Patrick Sisson Curbed November 5, 2018
Freedom ain’t free. But for many voters in next week’s midterm elections, rides to the polls will be.
Numerous travel startups and public transit agencies will be offering free or discounted trips to the polls on Election Day, providing turnout-boosting transportation assistance during an already high-profile midterm—and an experiment in how transportation and voting are linked. University of Florida professor and election scholar Michael McDonald believes voter participation this year could be at a rate “that most people have never experienced in their lives for a midterm election.”
“Transportation to the polls is often a challenge for many Americans on Election Day,” says Alex Youn, spokesperson for electric scooter company Lime.
“So we felt we had an opportunity to help people make their voices heard and overcome a barrier that may have kept them from participating in the democratic process.”
The sheer number of transit startups investing in civic engagement on November 6 means many voters will have multiple options to get to their polling place next Tuesday. Lyft is providing half-off rides nationwide through a partnership with nonprofits working to encourage civic engagement, and will offer codes for free rides, via partner groups, to underserved communities.
Lime will give users free rides of up to 30 minutes across the company’s fleet of shared bikes, e-bikes, and e-scooters. Zipcar will give users a $20 credit for renting a car on election night, between 6 and 10 p.m. Motivate, the national bike-share service recently purchased by Lyft, will also offer free trips in all the markets where it operates, including Citi Bike in New York and Jersey City, Divvy in Chicago, and Ford GoBike in the Bay Area. Skip scooters will give users a $5 credit
Uber will offer $10 off a single ride via its most inexpensive options, usually the Pool shared ride option, as well as a poll locator button in the app that will help route users to their polling place. “We’ve never done a nationwide, discounted, or free ride to the polls before,” says Uber’s Matthew Wing.
In addition, cities and public transit agencies across the country will also offer free trips. Los Angeles Metro, which carries roughly 1.3 million passengers daily, will over free rides on all bus routes and rail lines, a move expected to cost $600,000 in lost fares. Houston, Dallas, and Tampa transit agencies will also offer free rides, many just requiring a voter ID card before boarding.
All this adds up to an unprecedented experiment in free transit and turnout boosting travel options. According to Rey Junco, a senior researcher at the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University, current data suggests the youth vote is especially engaged and excited in this election, perhaps voting in numbers that may rival a presidential election year.
He believes these free transit options can make a difference, especially for this age group.
“The statistician part of me can’t give you a good estimate,” he says, “but the general researcher in me says I wouldn’t be surprised if it had some impact, especially in closer races.”
America’s poor voting infrastructure
America’s voter participation problem—only 61.4 percent of U.S. adults participated in the 2016 presidential election—has many causes: a long history of racism and voter suppression, antiquated voting infrastructure and a lack of sufficient polling places, laws designed to discourage registration and participation. Emily Badger, writing for the New York Times, noted that in our democracy, there is “an increasingly partisan split over whether it should be a goal at all in America to get more people to vote.”
Can better transportation help increase turnout? While Junco says he hasn’t come across specific studies specifically analyzing how free transportation would change voting behavior, it’s sensible to assume that a free trip to the polls can make a difference, since lack of transit has repeatedly been cited as a challenge.
According to a 2016 “Survey of the Performance of American Elections” by Harvard, 14 percent of non-voters said they didn’t vote in 2016 because they couldn’t find a ride to their polling place, and a recent Pew study found that just 50 percent of voters under the age of 30 said that the voting process was easy. A CIRCLE analysis of the 2016 election found that transportation kept roughly 15 million voters from the polls in 2016, with 29 percent of all youth aged 18 to 29 citing transit as a reason why they didn’t vote—15 percent called it a “major factor.”
Other barriers, such as having to take off work and vote on a weekday, or having to wait in long lines due to a limited number of polling places, may present larger barriers. And, for perspective, 65 percent of youth surveyed listed “didn’t like candidates/issues” as their biggest barrier.
But there’s no question poor transit access depressed turnout, especially across socioeconomic and racial lines. CIRCLE’s analysis found that youth of color were more likely to list transportation as a voting deterrent (39 percent versus 27 percent for white voters). Youth without college degrees also said transportation was a bigger factor compared to their college educated peers (35 percent versus 19 percent).
The free rider solution?
Representatives from Uber, Lime, and Lyft, who are all running non-partisan programs aimed at encouraging overall turnout, have not noticed campaigns making these free trips a central part of their get-out-the-vote operations. That said, Uber also introduced a feature allowing organizations and campaigns to generate promo codes to send out to followers.
Spokespeople from transit companies participating in Election Day promotions all say they can only make rough guesses about how many people will participate. That makes Junco especially interested in seeing the post-election data to get a sense of how the programs were utilized and who took advantage.
It goes to follow that any program that makes participation easier or more affordable can make a difference.
“We don’t know what difference a 10 minute-ride makes, but it speaks to a basic thing we see over and over: Voting is an access issue,” Junco says.