Uber & Lyft As An Extension Of... Or Replacement For... Public Transit

from the well-that's-interesting dept

Lyft just announced an interesting partnership with MARTA, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority to basically help get more people to and from MARTA stations. It's an interesting approach to try to help make public transit more convenient:
Partnering with transit agencies like MARTA is a core part of our vision to build a sustainable transportation network. By helping fill the first and last miles between a passenger’s home and a MARTA station, we’re making it easier than ever to ride transit. We believe that when transit is within reach of everyone, our cities are more liveable, connected, and prosperous.
Of course, it's not entirely clear what's really involved in the "partnership" beyond marketing. Yes, Lyft is offering discount vouchers, but only for 10 rides. And you could already use Lyft or Uber to do this without the partnership.

Where this potentially gets more interesting is the decision of Dublin, California, to look to Lyft and Uber as a substitute for public transportation by subsidizing rides via those companies instead of taking a bus.
In a first for California, a public transit agency next month plans to begin subsidizing fares of people who take private Uber and Lyft cars to local destinations rather than riding the bus.

Passengers ordering Uber or Lyft car trips within two test areas of Dublin will be eligible to get door-to-destination service at a big discount under a partnership between the ride-hailing companies and the Wheels public bus system in Dublin, Alameda and Pleasanton.
The local transit authority is even suggesting that this might change the way they set up routes and serve certain communities. In fact, they've already killed off one (little used) bus route, suggesting that this new partnership can help replace that route more efficiently.

I can see why this might annoy some people -- and certainly those who don't trust big private companies like Uber and Lyft are going to complain. Similarly the bus driver's union rep is apparently pissed off. But this is still a really interesting experiment. If it allows municipalities to truly offer better, more efficient transportation and it's cheaper overall, then is it really a problem that some companies might also make some profits from it? It will be interesting to see how this experiment in Dublin works out and if other cities follow suit. And it seems like a much better idea than what's happening in Massachusetts, where the government has instituted a special tax on Lyft and Uber... and giving that money to the taxi companies who didn't innovate.
Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: atlanta, california, car hailing, dublin, marta, massachusetts, public transit, ride sharing
Companies: lyft, uber

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Aug 2016 @ 2:42pm

    The creators of the God View are exactly whom we should be trusting with public transit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Aug 2016 @ 3:05pm


    "it's cheaper overall"

    I'm going to posit that many, many studies have been done over decades in many countries on the road maintenance costs of buses vs private car traffic for equivalent number of journey-miles in commuter, urban, suburban and rural areas. So where are they (the studies)? Otherwise this argument reduces to 'my pet theory' is better than 'your pet theory. Full lifecycle analysis please, with numbers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Chris Brand, 25 Aug 2016 @ 3:05pm

    The worry

    The concern is that this can be used as a stealthy way to kill off public transit.
    It's fairly easy to subsidise rideshare services, to use that to justify shutting down bus routes, and then to later drop the subsidies, leaving transit users without transit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    WhatIfWeDontWantLyftOrUber?, 25 Aug 2016 @ 3:18pm



    They talk about people "ordering rides"...
    How about folks coming in from other countries that want a taxi or a bus? Taxi and bus services still around?

    What about folks that don't use mobiles devices, will there be something similar to a taxi or bus stand?

    Who has liability for lost or damaged possessions or acts of violence by drivers? Will the city become the liable party?

    This teaming up with these companies opens up a lot more questions that answers.

    My question is, what problems are they solving that a bus or taxi doesn't doesn't today? Seems more like a solution in search of a problem. The only positive I can see would be for the city, which can "outsource" some bus functions to reduce their operational costs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Aug 2016 @ 3:44pm

    As it is better known in Georgia

    MARTA - Moving Africans Rapidly Through Atlanta.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Aug 2016 @ 5:53pm

    Re: The worry

    "way to kill off public transit"

    The auto industry did this many years ago, look at what they are responsible for.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    pr, 25 Aug 2016 @ 8:10pm

    might have worked for Irving, TX

    Irving, TX is a member of DART, Dallas Area Rapid Transit. Irving residents pay an extra 1% sales tax to support "rapid" transit. (Ever notice that taxpayer funded operators of buses that are much slower than driving yourself like to call themselves "rapid transit?" But I digress.)

    Some time ago it was noticed that Irving was paying $28 million a year into DART. 1.4 million rides started or ended in Irving, which lead the less mathematically challenged to conclude that the taxpayers were paying $20 for each ride of the bus in Irving. Some forward-looking individuals concluded the same thing as this article: that it would be cheaper to buy everyone taxi rides than to pay into DART's lousy bus service. It even got put on the ballot to drop out of DART

    But then it was noticed that the person noticing the high price of bus service was none other than Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who had in mind converting that $28 million a year into a neat subsidy for a snazzy new stadium for his private business to charge people money to enter. At which point the whole thing died.

    Now that I've typed all this in (with one hand due to a bicycle accident) I'm not sure what point I was trying to make, other than to say that Jerry Jones is an avaricious dickhead.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Aug 2016 @ 4:22am

    Nom nom.. Gotta love wage dumping and tax evasion.. Uber ftw..

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    Prashanth (profile), 26 Aug 2016 @ 6:45am

    Re: The worry

    This is my concern too. I have a disability that requires use of a wheelchair, and if I lived in an area which had a bus service that was subsequently killed off in the name of efficiency (and for which no Uber or Lyft service was offered as a replacement, again for "efficiency"), I'd be pretty pissed. This is why some basic level of public transportation service is needed (and is related to why private delivery services can't and shouldn't fully replace the USPS): if you consider transportation a right (and it is certainly a necessity for poorer people who still need to get to work somehow, even if owning or renting a car is unaffordable), there will be certain routes that need to be serviced even though their market inefficiency will mean private companies would generally shy away.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    John Mayor, 26 Aug 2016 @ 6:47am


    The story at Google result, World's first self-driving taxis debut in Singapore, was fascinating! And it brought to mind a notion I've been musing about for years... i.e., an NGO+NPO based municipal transportation infrastructure, and operational services!
    The NGO+NPO community... what jeremy Rifkin calls the "Third Sector"!... has-- historically!-- been the driving force behind countless product, and service innovations!... indeed, it is the very unwitting foundation upon which the remaining two Primary Sectors (i.e., the Private Sector, and Bureaucratic Sector!), are rooted! And the difference between the remaining two Primary Sectors, is that it's focus has aimed at mitigating the negative impacts that both of the remaining two Primary Sectors have had, on endless products and services!... and, hence, the tags, NGO and NPO! And!... which accounts for the endless number of NGO+NPO advocacies, and advocates, which have emerged over the millennia!
    (Incidentally, a TRUE MEMBER of the "First Sector"... i.e., MY ascription for the NGO+NPO Sector and community!... and, inasmuch-- and again!-- as it's the unwitting basis for the other two Primary Sectors!... must be B-O-T-H NGO and NPO! And, because, the For Profit Sector can stand up and say-- correctly!-- that it's NG/ Nongovernmental!... and the Bureaucratic Sector can stand up and say-- correctly!-- that it's NP/ Nonprofit!... and so, CONFOUNDING THE PERCEPTION-- AT LEAST!-- OF THE NATURE OF THE "FIRST SECTOR"! And!... and coupled with "COLLUSIVELY VOLUNTEERED" products/ money, services, and manpower from either or both the For Profit and Bureaucratic Sectors!... the "strings" BINDING the "Third Sector", will invariably pose additional problems in the "Third Sector's" ability to foster an INDEPENDENT VOICE on any given product, and/ or service!)
    Without getting into a history lesson on the evolution of this MOST IMPORTANT of the three Primary Sectors, I would like to focus on the role of the "First Sector" in the Metasector, called Transportation (a Metasector, being a large product or service category!... e.g., Energy!... into which related Epi-sectors-- e.g., electric energy!-- are then divided!)!
    To conclude... and simply put!... there is no reason why the members of the "First Sector" within communities that are concerned about an Epi-Sector of the Metasector called Transportation (e.g., the Epi-sector called, "automobile transportation"!), can't proffer the notion of a wholly NGO+NPO based automobile transportation infrastructure, and service!... and, to begin a Crowd Funding campaign (e.g.!), to that end!
    Imagine... if you will!... and in addition to proffering the notion of a wholly Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) and Free and Open Source Harware (FOSH) based SOLAR ELECTRIC AUTOMOBILE URBAN TRANSPORTATION INFRASTRUCTURE!... that the "First Sector" advocacies and advocates involved with "urban solar electric FOSS-FOSH transportation", then include a VOLUNTEER, AND FREE COMPONENT, to such as just aforenoted!
    And so!... the "First Sector" begins rolling out their own vehicles for public use, and begins advocating around FREE TRANSPORTATION!... and, in opposition-- as is usually the case!-- to FOR PROFIT, and COLLUSIVE BUREAUCRATIC versions, of the "Transportation Metasector's" Epi-sector (i.e., if the latter two Primary Sectors would even consider a Solar powered variant!)!
    The main distinction these three Primary Sectors have in their respective approaches to the Meta Sectors and Epi-Sectors with which they deal (AND TOUCHING ON E-V-E-R-Y PRODUCT AND SERVICE KNOWN TO MAN!), is that each come at a given Meta Sector's Epi-sector product and/ or service, from a different BEHAVIORAL PERSPECTIVE (i.e., one wants profit for a product and/ or service!... one feigns-- in many instances a "public" product and/ or service!... and, the last, desires a magnanimous and egalitarian product and/ or service!)!
    The hope for many within the "First Sector", is that only the "First Sector" will be left standing!... and, that FOR PROFIT products and services, and COLLUSIVE "PUBLIC" products and services, will be aberrations of the past! And!... and just like-- I suggest!-- alien civilizations have realized for millions of years!... that mankind will eventually provide RATIONAL, AND WHOLLY SUSTAINABLE products and services for both itself, and its environment in a BEHAVIORALLY ADJUSTED manner!
    And thus!... this will require a P-R-I-M-A-R-Y F-O-C-U-S on the M-O-S-T I-P-O-R-T-A-N-T Metasector!... Health (i.e., Public Health and Personal Health!... and Macro Environmental and Micro Environmental Health!)!... and, Health's most important Epi-sector, Health ICT!
    In other words!... Health (and in the combined four areas as just denoted!... with a S-P-E-C-I-A-L F-O-C-U-S on Health ICT!... and a F-U-R-T-H-E-R S-P-E-C-I-A-L F-O-C-U-S on our need for a new Global Health Ontology Classification Paradigm!) IS THE D-E-F-I-N-I-T-I-V-E "U-P-P-E-R O-N-T-O-L-O-G-Y" H-O-L-Y G-R-A-I-L LONG SOUGHT BY MANY UPPER ONTOLOGY ENTHUSIASTS!... THE APEX INTO WHICH A-L-L O-T-H-E-R ONTOLOGIES ON EARTH ARE TO BE GROUPED (AND BEGINNING WITH ALL HEALTH ONTOLOGIES!), OR DISCARDED AS PATHIC!... AND, IS OUR MOST IMPORTANT PLANETARY CONCERN!
    Please!... no emails!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    John Mayor, 26 Aug 2016 @ 7:17am


    W-H-E-R-E IT'S AT
    You need not go afar, to be W-H-E-R-E IT'S AT,
    if W-H-E-R-E YOU'RE AT, is W-H-E-R-E you should B-E!
    For no matter W-H-E-R-E you go, T-H-E-R-E you A-R-E!...
    and so A-R-E you, AT L-O-V-E!
    Please!... no emails!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    David Aitken, 26 Aug 2016 @ 11:33am

    Re: Re: The worry

    Transportation is not a right. It's a service. Look up the difference between positive and negative rights.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    The Pamphleteer, 26 Aug 2016 @ 4:01pm

    Uber, Lyft and others as Public Transportation

    Here in NYC, we have something called Access-A-Ride.

    Access-A-Ride provides transportation for people with disabilities whose disability prevents their use of accessible mass transit, public bus, or subway service for some or all of their trips. Access-A-Ride is operated by private carriers under contract to the City.

    It is absolutely terrible service. Dirty, uncomfortable, surly drivers, always late.

    It costs the taxpayers $416 Million per year.

    They carry 6.3 Million riders every year. Each ride averages out to $66 per ride.

    The government should get the ride sharing companies such as Uber, Lyft, Gett, Via, Juno and have them make accessible vehicles available. Then the whole system could be turned over to them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)


Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Discord

The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...

Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.