3 sep 19

Do mobility services undermine public transit?


New mobility services such as ride hailing and car sharing have a complicated relationhip with public transport operators, cannibalising and complementing bus, tram and train services, according to a new report by one of Canada’s top independent research organisations.

My Ride, Your Ride, Our Ride, by The Conference Board of Canada, analyses how the arrival of companies such as Uber and Lyft can lead to a decline in the number of public transport passengers in some cities. The report cites research by the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, which found that: “Almost half of the trips taken in a ride-hailing service would have otherwise been made by transit, walking, and cycling—or not undertaken at all.”

And in Canada, the city with the fastest growing number of public transport users is Vancouver, where ride hailing was unavailable until April 2019.

However, conflicting research has also found that ‘shared mobility users’ are more likely to use public transport. In Denver, USA for example, the Uber app now displays the time and cost of public transport as an alternative to hailing a ride.

Last mile passenger services

My Ride, Your Ride, Our Ride identifies opportunities for ride hailing services to complement public transport by delivering: “First and last mile shared services to and from transit stations, as well as off-peak periods and areas with infrequent transit service.”

It also recommends that public transport operators adopt the customer service and sophistication of ride hailing and car sharing rivals, especially with regard to on-demand services.

Data sharing

As for the future of urban mobility and the success of mobility as a service plans, The Conference Board of Canada emphasises the need for city authorities to: “ensure that shared mobility providers share customer trip data.”

Data, it says, will become increasingly important for planning and management purposes in the shared mobility ecosystem, so a policy on data-sharing governance should be a priority, and structured to incentivise shared mobility providers to comply.

“Public transit needs to accommodate evolving societal preferences, and leverage operational and technology innovations, to remain vital in the era of shared and new mobility,” said Dr. Babatunde Olateju, Senior Research Associate, The Conference Board of Canada. “The impact of shared mobility on transit is complex. It can be complementary, competitive, or neutral, depending on local factors”.

Authored by: Jonathan Manning