The Washington Post Sunday
Your next Metro schedule app is ... Lyft?
With integration of scooters, bike sharing, ride hailing and now transit, D.C. becomes East Coast model for app’s mobility options
Metro rail and bus riders in the Washington region can now find their next train and bus times in an unlikely place: Lyft.
The ride-hailing app, which has called itself a first-mile, lastmile option for transit users but has scooped up an increasing share of everyday commuters, will connect users to Metro within its app, it says, through a new partnership with the transit agency. It’s an effort, the company says, to lead commuters to the best available mode of transportation — even if it’s not a Lyft.
Lyft’s Caroline Samponaro, who heads bike, scooter and pedestrian policy for the ridehailing company, said the transit integration is a way to give commuters a “fuller picture” of their options — even if the best way around isn’t, well, Lyft.
“This speaks to the strong mission of the company,” Samponaro said. “We believe in the inherent value of public transit in cities and want to be a partner to the District and the region in making sure that we’re fostering and encouraging that transit use.”
Metro, in a statement, applauded the agreement.
Ride-hailing services have come under criticism in the past for cannibalizing transit users through subsidized and low-cost fares, including some pool fares that are directly competitive with transit; ride hailing has also been faulted for adding congestion to the roads in part through “deadheading” — the practice of drivers roaming around waiting for fares or making the trip to a rider’s pickup point or from the drop-off location.
But with the addition of Metro, Lyft boasts that it offers a more thorough mobility service, including scooters, traditional and pooled ride hailing and transit — all within its app. (Lyft says it will soon integrate bike sharing into the app, following its recent acquisition of Capital Bikeshare operator Motivate, but it has not done so yet.) That makes the District essentially its East Coast hub for mobility, company officials said in announcing the transit integration.
The announcement comes as the District launches five 24/7 Uber and Lyft pickup and dropoff zones to keep ride-hailing vehicles from clogging roads and blocking bike lanes and crosswalks.
“We’re really modeling what we hope to do in cities across the country in our nation’s capital,” Samponaro said. “We’re thrilled that D.C. is the first city in which we’re offering a fully multimodal package to Lyft riders.”
Lyft says it offers 400 e-scooters in the District — the maximum allowed — and 200 scooters in Arlington, though it plans to add 150 more. The company declines to say how many commuters it carries in the District on a daily basis. A Metro internal ridership rescue plan earlier this year, however, estimated the number of daily ridehailing users in Washington at 300,000, nearly half as many trips as Metro delivers every day.
The D.C. Council approved a 6 percent tax on ride-hailing companies’ gross receipts earlier this year in an effort to raise revenue for the District’s portion of Metro’s $500 million a year in dedicated funding. The agreement levied data-sharing requirements on ride-hailing firms and requires them to provide detailed information on where and how many trips they are delivering within the District.
Lyft said its partnership with Metro, which includes the provision of live and real-time scheduling data, does not include a two-way data sharing agreement — though under the District’s data-sharing law, the mayor is free to share ride-hailing data with Metro, exempt from public disclosure.
With the agreement, Metro becomes the busiest transit system to be integrated in the app — following the feature’s launch in Santa Monica, Calif., in September and Los Angeles this month.
“We are excited that [Metro] is the first transit system on the East Coast being featured on the Lyft app,” Lynn Bowersox, Metro’s assistant general manager for customer service, said in a statement. “Using Lyft as a connection to Metrorail and Metrobus is a great solution for people who don’t have time to sit in traffic, and value sustainable mobility solutions.”