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Uber, commuting, car ownership, and the future of urban mobility

Earlier this week I wrote a “Tech Tuesday” post talking about Uber’s new Smart Routes functionality, which it is currently testing out in San Francisco. At the end of the post I ended by saying that it’s not just the taxi industry that should be thinking about Uber, it’s also public transit authorities. 

And that’s because many people in cities rely on multi-modal forms of transportation (I know I do) and in my mind it is clear that Uber is trending away from just “Everyone’s Private Driver” to a service that is starting to look and feel a lot like urban mass transit.

Then today my good friend Evgeny sent me a post called, “Public Transit Should Be Uber’s New Best Friend.” And it’s one of the best pieces I’ve read on Uber and its impact on urban mobility. I highly recommend you give it a read, particularly if you’re in the city building arena.

The article does a deep dive into how New Yorkers commute. Here’s how they broke it down.


It then talks about what it will take for a company like Uber to make a meaningful dent in car ownership (which is one of the company’s goals) and how the truly big opportunity for Uber is to go more mass market and tap into the public transit market – either by interfacing with or by building its own version of it.

Here’s their concluding paragraph:

But there’s a much wider potential audience if Uber can also reach middle-class customers who want to save money. Perhaps in the distant (or even the not-so-distant) future, Uber can build its own version of “public” transit, making rides so cheap that they cost less than the $4 or $5 that Americans now pay, on average, to make a trip in their personal cars. In the meantime, it might have more success among “car-cutting” customers who can use Uber along with public transit. That might mean Uber’s growth is concentrated more in cities like New York, San Francisco and Chicago — and in Europe and Asia — that already have reasonably strong public transit networks.

It’s definitely worth a full read. Thanks again for sending this over Evgeny.

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