*Full disclosure, I have been a Lyft shareholder and currently own Uber in my portfolio.*
I have to weigh in on this subject of rideshares and public transportation. First, I use public transportation a few times a week and bike to work a few days a week. Second, I use a rideshare nearly every weekend despite the fact that I own a car. In fact, I only drive my vehicle around three to four times a week and that is relatively short distances (to the grocery store and back). To me It seems like an obvious ‘meeting of minds’ if you will, to have Lyft and/or Uber come together with local and regional transportation boards to provide better and greener options for commuters.
There are lot of misconceptions by people about what Lyft and Uber are and will be. A CNN article even quoted a transit expert saying, “Try to imagine the island of Manhattan, and everyone taking the subway being in a rideshare. It just doesn’t function.” This left me scratching my head. First, those are two very different price points and second, why would you take a rideshare when public transportation may be faster and cheaper?
My subjective view on this comes from experience. Some mornings I have considered a rideshare over the bus and then I look at the traffic and remember that the bus has a dedicated lane while the rideshare doesn’t. Yes I have to walk seven minutes to the bus stop but the ride is only $3 and will get me to my location sooner. Granted this isn’t always the case but you can see my argument.
Let’s also look at this objectively. It is safe to say that public transportation has some issues when it comes to their mobile applications. Meanwhile Lyft and Uber have very easy to use apps. Licensing out their technology or bolting onto public transportation applications with maps, schedules and purchase options, etc could be a huge windfall for the companies and improve ridership on buses and trains in a local city.
Kind of ironic how Uber’s ‘scorched Earth’ practice of just showing up in a city and asking for permission later is now in a position where they have to work with regulators first in order to improve the future fortunes of their now publicly traded company.
This partnership can take cars off of the road, lower emissions into the atmosphere, lengthen the life of the roads and even relieve people of some stress. The current world we live in is this, there are too many cars on the roads in big cities with only person in them, the driver. Not enough people are taking public transportation or other ‘alternative’ forms of transportation like bicycles. This contributes to increased pollution, greenhouse gases, a boatload of road-rage and lining the pockets of automakers, oil and tire companies. Bottom line is that Lyft and Uber can help get more people out of their cars and onto public transportation or carpooling by sharing a ride with someone else.
Yes this is some ‘blue sky’ thinking but it is not too far fetched.
From UBER’s S-1: “We are also exploring ways to incorporate public transportation into our platform. For example, we recently created a public-transit ticketing partnership with Masabi, which will enable riders in certain markets to book, store, and use public transit tickets through our app. We also recently integrated public transportation directly into our app on a test basis. These innovations allow us to better facilitate movement across cities by offering multiple modes of transportation, such as buses, subways, bikes, scooters, or vehicles, within a single trip.”
Here in Denver, Colorado we have RTD (Regional Transportation District). They do a good job but they are in the stone age when it comes to the bus and train tracking and their mobile applications. If Lyft and/or Uber can merge their technology and make RTDs apps easier to use then it can be a huge win for new and existing commuters not to mention for the companies. It is one of those rare ‘win-win’ propositions.
The future of Uber and Lyft is working with government and not against it. These companies and others can make a significant difference in the pollution levels, traffic and in the end, the lives of their riders and the planet. Let the ‘blue sky’ thinking become reality and watch how a tech company working with government can actually make the world a better place.