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.