1 Oct 19

Uber & Lyft move from traffic congestor to mobility provider

The big ridehailing companies Uber and Lyft are moving more and more into the Mobility-as-a-Service space in an apparent bid to counter the backlash they have received as ‘traffic congestors’. 

Lyft – from cars to people

Lyft announced last week via Reuters that it will upgrade its app to a real MaaS app. From now on, rather than having the main focus on ridehailing, Lyft users will be able to switch between various transportation modes. 

By comparing the cost and travel times of various transportation options, Lyft users can be tempted to leave the car and pick a bike, scooter or public transportation instead. As such, the ridehailer wants to reduce traffic congestion in already over-congested cities. 

However, Lyft operates its ridehailing service in over 300 cities in North America but only offers bikesharing services in 8 cities and scooters in 20 cities, and public transportation alternatives will only become available early next year for a couple of American cities such as Boston, Chicago, Denver, LA, New York, Seattle and Washington. In addition, car rental options will be shown as well. 

In a nutshell, Lyft is working towards a future where cities are centred around people, not cars, said Lyft’s co-founder and president John Zimmer in a statement. Yet, to achieve that ambition, they will have to expand their car alternatives  to include more cities than the lucky few at the moment. 

Uber - One-stop shop

A similar trend has been noticed by ridehailing competitor Uber. They already acquired bikesharing company Jump bikes to provide its riders with a cycling option; while in San Francisco Uber started cooperating with the peer-to-peer car-sharing company Getaround in a service called Uber Rent. 

In addition, half a year ago Uber partnered with Moovit, to provide real-time information and step-by-step directions to use public transit via the Uber app. At the moment of cooperation, David Reich, Head of Transit at Uber said Uber is moving towards becoming a one-stop shop for transportation in a city. The pilot for the in-app ticketing started out in Denver, with the possibility to expand to other cities later. 

Moreover, today, the new vision of the company is about integration of all its services into one app. The ‘Uber Uber app’ will include the public transit ticketing, e-bikes, ride hailing and food delivery (Uber Eats) in one single app. 

All these initiatives should provide alternatives to reduce personal vehicle use in cities. Moreover, in Europe, Uber has even become a member of the MaaS Alliance and its Board of Directors, in order to provide an alternative to private car usage that is both efficient and sustainable.  Whereas the MaaS Alliance was specifically created to support the integration of various mobility services in order to provide an attractive alternative for the private car, Uber was originally created as a ridehailing company only. 

Unsurprising shift

The shift from merely ridehailing to mobility providers is not surprising since both ridehailing giants have recently been under pressure for their alleged adding to traffic congestion despite their own claims they reduce it.

For instance, a study published in May in the City of San Francisco attributed about half of San Francisco’s increase in congestion from 2010 to 2016 to ridehailing cars. In New York, a similar conclusion was made by the Department of Transportation in 2018, attributing 30% of peak time traffic to ridehailing cars. 

While some cities are considering implementing congestion taxes and/or ridehailing restrictions, ridehailing companies Uber and Lyft are now taking measures themselves to counter that reputation and secure their business. 

Authored by: Fien Van den steen