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Ridesharing could help solve the last mile problem

X by Keith Mokris on 500px.com

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A few months ago I wrote a post about Uber’s new “Smart Routes” feature and ended by saying that it’s not just taxis who need to be thinking about platforms like Uber, it’s also public transit authorities.

I said that because I think that multi-modal is already the new reality in terms of how we get around cities and because the line between different modalities is becoming greyer all the time.

That’s why I was interested when I stumbled upon this NextCity article talking about how Lyft is starting – it’s still early days – to collaborate with transit authorities in order to make it easier for people to switch between public transit and its peer-to-peer ridesharing marketplace.

Why might this matter? Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“According to the company’s data, 25 percent of Lyft riders say they use the service to connect to public transit. In Boston, 33 percent of those rides start or end near a T station. And transit hubs like Chicago’s Union Station, D.C.‘s Union Station and Boston’s South Station are among the most popular destinations for its users, Lyft finds. So riders already see on-demand rides as a solution to the first mile/last mile problem. Lyft thinks it can do more.”

These last 2 sentences are interesting. Public transit can often suffer from what is known as the first mile/last mile problem. This is a problem where riders find it difficult to get to the nearest transit route from their departing point or to their ultimate destination once they exit transit.

Bikesharing can be used to solve this. But, clearly, so can ridesharing.

The other important aspect of this emerging collaboration is that ridesharing apps can offer a lot of incredibly valuable data to transit authorities. If 25% of users are indeed using it to connect to public transit, then all of a sudden cities are getting a more complete picture of point A to B travel. (Among many other things.)

But the question in my mind is now, who is going to and who should act as the overall steward in this multi-modal urban mobility network? 

There are lots of different players involved. Some are public and some are private. But they all play a role in how we are going to continue moving around our cities.

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