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Congress Wants Agencies to Use the Sharing Economy for Rides

The House is set to debate an amendment that would use ridesharing services like Uber to help cull the government’s vehicle fleet.

Rep. Dav­id Sch­weikert has a new strategy to get the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment to cut down on its massive fleet of 630,000-plus cars: sum­mon­ing an Uber.

The Ari­zona Re­pub­lic­an has pitched a pro­pos­al that would get three agen­cies to start re­du­cing the num­ber of gov­ern­ment-owned cars by hav­ing them ex­plore ride-shar­ing. All told, his idea — offered as an amend­ment to the House trans­port­a­tion bill — would re­duce the fleets at three agen­cies by 10 per­cent.

But Sch­weikert said that, if the amend­ment passes, it’s also a way to start talk­ing about “bring­ing the new eco­nomy in­to gov­ern­ment ef­fi­ciency.”

“There’s a long term goal here of can we use in­form­a­tion to al­loc­ate cap­it­al re­sources bet­ter,” said Sch­weikert, who came to the House as part of the Tea Party wave of 2011. “This is sort of the first step of try­ing to sell the idea.”

Un­der the amend­ment, three de­part­ments — Ag­ri­cul­ture, In­teri­or and En­ergy — would launch a pi­lot to trim 10 per­cent of their vehicle fleet and re­place it with a ride­shar­ing solu­tion. The lan­guage spe­cific­ally says that the de­part­ments can use their dis­cre­tion to “in­crease the use… of com­mer­cial ride-shar­ing com­pan­ies,” but he said it’s not as simple as just get­ting every­one to sign up for Uber or Ly­ft.

“We use the term ride­shar­ing, but it’s more than that,” he said. “Would it be a Zip­car-type mod­el, would it be two people us­ing the same car, would it be a shared vehicle or shared route? I don’t really care, as long as we get more ef­fi­cient.”

The three de­part­ments were chosen be­cause they have large vehicle fleets re­l­at­ive to their staff.

The amend­ment is one of more than 80 set for de­bate Wed­nes­day on the six-year trans­port­a­tion bill.

The U.S. Gen­er­al Ser­vices Ad­min­is­tra­tion last Oc­to­ber launched a pi­lot pro­gram with four vendors, in­clud­ing En­ter­prise and Hertz, to ex­plore wheth­er a car-shar­ing ser­vice could help re­duce costs in the fed­er­al fleet by let­ting em­ploy­ees simply check out cars from a lar­ger pool for short­er trips.

Sch­weikert said that this is just one way he’s try­ing to bring as­pects of the shar­ing eco­nomy in­to the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment, even if it can be an up­hill battle in the tra­di­tion­ally non-dis­rupt­ive Con­gress.

“A lot of my broth­ers and sis­ters in there just stare at me blank when I walk through us­ing in­form­a­tion as part of the new eco­nomy and say ‘I hadn’t thought about it,’” he said, ges­tur­ing to the House floor. “I think not enough of us have talked about it.”

(Image via MikeDotta / Shutterstock.com )