In the last few years, particularly 2016, we have seen ride-sharing companies virtually eliminate the need for taxi services and have hit the public transportation industry hard. With the challenge of competing against powerhouse companies such as Lyft and Uber becoming too much to overcome, some agencies have taken the approach of joining rather than fighting by looking into partnerships with these companies. The opportunity to create a seamless experience from getting to the rail or bus station or home from the rail or bus station is what will help struggling agencies to regain traction and help the public transportation industry as a whole regain a leading position when it comes to ridership.
The biggest hit to the retention of riders for public transportation agencies and organizations has been the creation of ride sharing and ride-hailing companies like Lyft and Uber. In fact, Uber’s mission, in its early stages, was to eliminate the need for public transportation options like taxis and buses altogether. This has been apparent until recently when both Lyft and Uber have looked to partnering with local transit agencies and government transit departments to increase the fleet for the agencies and give more ride opportunities to the drivers. In an article recently publish by Bloomberg Technology, the author states that Lyft has helped a number of transit agencies with grant applications get much-needed funding for transportation dispatch software and also pay for a portion of fares for Lyft drivers that would then essentially make the drivers an integral part of the public transportation system. The article also states some cities with shrinking budgets have even begun to cut normal bus routes to subsidize Uber and Lyft rides as public transportation.
Mass Transit Mag recently announced that METRA, the suburban-based rail system in Chicago, IL, has just struck a deal with Uber for a $900,000 advertising deal over the next 3 years that will allow Uber to put ads on the trains and at stations. METRA riders will have the incentive of $10 off of their first Uber ride. With Uber becoming the official ride-sharing partner of METRA, riders will be convinced to use the Uber app in order to get to and from the rail station. The benefits of ridesharing reach beyond the monetary and analytical value for the companies involved in the partnership. The riders will now have the opportunity to choose a more social and active transportation model. Sharing a ride with other people and using public transportation can be much more exciting than driving in a car by yourself, especially in Chicago.
Ride-hailing and ride sharing are becoming a larger part of public transportation across the US and this partnership in a major city is proof that it will only continue to get bigger. These types of partnerships could have a major impact on the paratransit industry as well. With added resources such as grant application assistance and an increased fleet of drivers, scheduling and dispatching would become much easier.