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Uber and Lyft as Public Transportation?

An article on Slate describes how some public transportation systems around the nation are offering discounted Uber rides. It then goes on to express some highly detailed concern with the practice, which writer Henry Grabar is alleging is being used as a sort of stopgap substitute for more traditional mass transit. He adds that the ride hailing companies like Uber and its biggest competitor, Lyft, are currently operating at a loss, despite their multi-billion dollar valuations. He speculates that much higher fares are likely coming for riders at some point in the future. At that point, they might not seem like such a convenient add-on to mass transit.

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Interesting but what, if anything, does it mean for riders in the here and now? For the time being, at least, the ridesharing giants will continue working hard to attract more ridership via discounts and other promotions, and to avoid any bad public relations.  For those of us concerned about personal injury law, this means that they will most likely continue to carry significantly more insurance on behalf of their drivers than most individuals are willing to pay for.  The vast majority of ridesharing experiences will remain about as pleasant and efficient as they are at present.

However, mass transit is also an important public good, especially here in the traffic-clogged Greater Los Angeles area. As the Slate article said, Uber and Lyft rides can definitely be effective for solving what is known as “the last mile problem.” Still, for those of who believe in public transportation, there may be times when it wouldn’t hurt us to explore ways to avoid using that Uber ride for the last mile. Sometimes, there are shorter-range options – like the DASH buses in Downtown L.A. and elsewhere.  And there are those funny contraptions at the bottom of our legs. We like to call to call them “feet”!

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