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All Things Travel: Future Of U.S. Transportation Found In Boston

By Bob Weiss, CBSBoston.com Travel Contributor
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Uber is a popular car-for-hire app. (Uber)

Uber is a popular car-for-hire app. (Uber)

Bob-Weiss Bob Weiss
Bob Weiss’s All Things Travel reports can be heard weekly on WBZ...
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BOSTON (CBS) – The future of U.S. Transportation in the next five years may be found in Boston.

Uber, the technology company that uses a phone app to get you a ride, just raised $1.2 billion in new financing. Two old-line Boston firms, Fidelity and Wellington Management, were reported to have invested $634 million in the five-year-old startup.

The company is based in San Francisco and now operates the system in over 130 cities, including Boston.

The taxi industry throughout the country is fighting back with a number of lawsuits. The taxi industry is regulated, but Uber is not subject to current city or state laws in Massachusetts.

Logan Airport also has a big stake in the success of this upstart transportation company. Taxis pay a fee to Massport every time they pick-up passengers arriving at the airport. Uber can park their cars free at Logan’s cell phone lot while awaiting calls.

In other major transportation developments to be watched, a French company is scheduled to take over the MBTA rail contract on July 1. Proposals are under consideration for establishing more toll roads in Massachusetts and a Waltham-based company continues to grow its vehicle fleets.

For Fidelity, Uber brings its investment policy full circle.

About 35 years ago, Fidelity Chairman Ned Johnson had trouble getting a cab to take him to Logan Airport, and according to the story, he decided to build his own private driver service that became Boston Coach.

Last year Boston Coach was sold to Marcou Transportation Group in Waltham, which in turn, merged that company with Dav El limousine service. The two companies now rank number one in that type of car service in the U.S., but are challenged by Uber and business travelers that carry smart phones.

Marcou is also expanding its transportation services by bringing the Super Shuttle door-to-door van service to Massachusetts and Logan Airport this year. Super Shuttle operates at 40 airports nationally.

In April, Massport added its fifth destination with the start of the Back Bay Logan Express from the Hynes Convention Center in downtown Boston.

Uber is one of the fastest growing companies in the U.S. and is reported to be worth more than $18.2 billion. That is much higher than Hertz, the number one car rental company.

There is competition for Uber in the car-calling service. The number two company is Lyft and they recently reduced fares and forced Uber to cut is fares 20-percent in a number of markets.

The success of Uber may depend on another new trend of younger city people. Because of high prices and lack of parking spaces, they are buying fewer cars.

Here again a Boston company is a major player. Zip Car, now owned by Avis/Budget, has its headquarters in the Seaport District and rents cars by the hour.

All Things Travel Reports can be heard on WBZ NewsRadio 1030. 

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