Uber bus just round the cor­ner for pub­lic trans­port

Tran­sit sys­tems are teaming up with ride-hail soft­ware for post-pan­demic needs

Arab News - - Business News - Reuters Rhode Is­land

Ur­ban trans­porta­tion’s trans­for­ma­tion has shifted up a gear as the coro­n­avirus crisis turns travel habits on their head, with Uber mak­ing al­lies of pub­lic tran­sit sys­tems by of­fer­ing to sell them its soft­ware ex­per­tise.

In the San Fran­cisco Bay area Marin County’s Trans­porta­tion Author­ity will next month al­low pas­sen­gers to book a trip through the Uber app, but they will ride wheel­chair-ac­ces­si­ble pub­lic vans rather than a pri­vate car.

From the streets of Utah’s Salt Lake City to Mis­souri’s St. Louis and New Jer­sey’s Jer­sey City, more than 120 US tran­sit agen­cies have launched col­lab­o­ra­tions with ride­hail firms in the past two years, data an­a­lyzed by Reuters shows. “Pro­vid­ing soft­ware is a high­er­mar­gin ser­vice for us. We’re lever­ag­ing tech­nol­ogy we’ve been build­ing for years,” David Re­ich, Uber Tech­nolo­gies Inc’s head of tran­sit, said.

Uber is talk­ing with dozens of world­wide tran­sit agen­cies to im­ple­ment soft­ware-based projects, Re­ich added.

Lyft Inc, Uber and other ride hail­ing com­pa­nies have pre­vi­ously been com­pet­ing with pub­lic bus and train ser­vices for rev­enue from com­muters.

But dur­ing the coro­n­avirus crisis they are lean­ing on each other in an search for cost sav­ings and new busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties, with many cities plan­ning to ex­pand or per­ma­nently im­ple­ment ser­vices op­er­ated by ride-hail com­pa­nies.

They hope this will save costs and im­prove ac­cess to busi­ness dis­tricts and con­vince tran­sit­wary com­muters and shop­pers to ditch their cars. Re­plac­ing low-use routes al­lows cities to off­load in­surance costs or move ex­ist­ing buses onto more prof­itable routes. As states re­open trip re­quests are still well be­low last year’s lev­els and the com­pa­nies have had to make mas­sive cost cuts and lay off thou­sands. Mean­while, tran­sit of­fi­cials are strug­gling with the costs of run­ning largely empty buses.

“There’s a need for us to work to­gether and the flex­i­bil­ity their tech­nol­ogy pro­vides really plays a big role,” Car­los Cruz-Casas, as­sis­tant di­rec­tor of Mi­ami-Date

County’s de­part­ment of trans­porta­tion said of Uber and Lyft.

The county be­gan re­plac­ing night buses with sub­si­dized ride­hail trips dur­ing the pan­demic, when rid­er­ship dropped as much as 80 per­cent. Now, Mi­ami-Dade plans to of­fer the op­tion per­ma­nently as part of a larger bus route re­struc­tur­ing pro­gram.

Uber has part­ner­ships with more than 30 global tran­sit agen­cies that use its ride ser­vices to con­nect rid­ers to hubs, re­place low-use bus lines or of­fer wheel­chair-ac­ces­si­bil­ity.

Lyft, which only op­er­ates in the US and Canada, launched its tran­sit pro­gram in 2016 and is part­nered with more than 80 cities to pro­vide tran­sit hub con­nec­tions, night and week­end sup­port, its head of tran­sit and mi­cro­mo­bil­ity pol­icy, Caro­line Sam­ponaro, said.

Via, a pri­vately-held trans­porta­tion com­pany, is op­er­at­ing con­sumer ride-hail ser­vices in a joint ven­ture with Daim­ler AG’s Mercedes-Benz in six cities and has struck tran­sit part­ner­ships with more than 90 agen­cies around the world.

Some 80 per­cent of Via’s tran­sit projects are purely soft­ware­based, its chief ex­ec­u­tive Daniel Ramot said, with tran­sit agen­cies us­ing its rout­ing tech­nol­ogy. “There’s a recog­ni­tion that tran­sit bud­gets will be very thin for a long time and de­mand much more volatile,” Ramot said.

HIGH­LIGHTS

Uber ex­pands in tran­sit with higher-mar­gin soft­ware.

US tran­sit agen­cies have worked with Uber, Lyft, Via.

Coro­n­avirus crisis has ac­cel­er­ated need for change.

Cities save costs by re­plac­ing low-use bus routes.

Reuters

Via, which runs ser­vices with Mercedes-Benz, has struck tran­sit part­ner­ships with more than 90 agen­cies around the world.

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