Uber, Lyft? No Worries: Public Transit Group Sees Room for Sharing

In a new report, the American Public Transportation Association says it sees ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft—and the app ecosystem that has risen up around them—as complementary to traditional transportation options, rather than a business threat.

When you can get a ride home from Lyft for $3, it’s easy to see why ride-sharing companies can compete with public transit and traditional cab services.

But does it really have to be competition? The American Public Transportation Association doesn’t think so. According to a recent APTA report, ride-sharing services are having a booster effect on demand for public transit.

“The more people use shared modes, the more likely they are to use public transit, own fewer cars, and spend less on transportation overall,” the study, titled Shared Mobility and the Transformation of Public Transit [PDF], states.

The study notes that shared transit offerings complement the services offered by public transit and are likely to grow in importance to local communities. Additionally, public transit systems and private companies see a lot of room to work together.

While the report cites regulatory issues that need to be addressed in the ride-sharing space, particularly related to accessibility for older riders and people with disabilities, these services “could still serve many of the same customers and do so with greater flexibility and better customer service,” the study notes.

In comments to the New York Times, Darnell Grisby, director of policy development and research at APTA, emphasized that the association views apps like RideTap and Moovit as important additions to the transit ecosystem.

“The shared modes complement public transit, enhancing urban mobility,” Grisby said.

They can also provide essential alternatives during times of disruption. Washington, DC, for example, is about two months into a yearlong plan to repair its aging Metro system. And New York City plans to shut down a major artery of its subway system—the L line, which connects Brooklyn and Manhattan—for 18 months, starting in 2019.

Uber and Lyft have embraced their roles as gap fillers in other instances when the bus or subway isn’t an option. “So that late-night trip home, that was after the train stopped running, we can get you there,” Lyft Director of Transportation Emily Castor said an APTA event in March. “When you need that last-minute connection to a rail station, we can do that for you, too.”

A Lyft vehicle driving in front of a city bus. They're working together. (Via Tsuji/Flickr)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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