On the whole question of whether ridesourcing (Uber/Lyft/etc) can replace fixed route buses, my fullest explanation is here, in both text and video form. Since then, there’s been some interesting news:
- Uber lost over $1.2 billon in 6 months. Yes, with a “b.” Cite this next time someone goes on about “money-losing” public transit systems.
- Uber is starting to do absurdly deep discounts that look a lot like predatory pricing. 20 rides for $20????. Such a price would undercut transit, thereby causing massively increased traffic with all the resulting ills. It’s obviously unsustainable for Uber, but if it goes on long enough to damage transit systems, that will be a huge negative impact on our cities. I hope someone is looking at whether this is legal.
- In happier news, California has its first example of Uber/Lyft/etc. replacing a fixed bus route, and it’s a very sensible one. It’s at the Livermore / Amador Valley Transit Authority on the eastern edge of the Bay Area. The key is that the bus route being replaced has predictably dreadful ridership: only five people get on for every hour that the bus operates. (Usually, a poor suburban fixed route performance is at least 10 boardings/service hour.) This is almost as bad as a short-trip taxi, which means that Uber/Lyft, with the ability to pick up multiple riders on the same trip, might do just as well. It’s still not a clean replacement. The fare is higher than the transit agency’s, as it must be to compensate for ridesharing’s inefficiency, and transfers to the buses don’t appear to be free. This is a reasonable deal, but there are not many fixed bus lines that perform this poorly!