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Ridehail should be public transit’s best friend. But until today transfers were tedious. We’ve made them magically simple.
November 27, 2018
The world’s smartest, most flexible, data-powered, robot-driven car will never compete with public transit at scale. It’s a matter of simple geometry, sister: you can’t fit 100 people in a car — but you can on a bus. You can’t fit 1000 people in a car — but on a train? Easy breezy. To save our cities from the pothole-pockmarked plague of traffic, we have to come up with practical solutions to get more people traveling in high-occupancy vehicles in the densest parts of our cities.
But short of digging subway tunnels ourselves — how can we make public transit more useful for more people?
Holy coincidence: our team has made it easier than ever for riders to connect to public transit.
Today, in special partnership with agencies in Kansas City, Silicon Valley, Boston, Detroit, Nashville, Columbus, Cleveland, St. Petersburg, St. Louis, Dayton, Albany, Las Vegas (and more to come) we’re launching Transit+.
It’s a fully-native experience that includes planning, booking, and payments. It feeds rides from private mobility services onto buses and trains. Starting with rail + ridehail from Uber, Lyft, Via, Ola, and Téo (in any city where Transit works) and bus + ridehail (in our special launch partner cities.)
Together, we’ve combined the efficiencies of ridehail (fast and flexible) with the efficiencies of public transit (fast and fixed… but also cheaper and more scalable). We call it transit-oriented ridehailing.
And you are going to love it.
Not everyone can afford ridehail. Especially not for daily commutes. When we do take ridehail, it’s often because our preferred option (public transit) isn’t available nearby, isn’t coming soon, or isn’t fast enough.
Forced to choose “public transit or ridehail?”, ridehail often wins — at least for those who can afford it, or can’t afford to be late. But what if riders didn’t have to pick public transit OR ridehail?
Now, with Transit+, we’ve made the answer “YES!”
We tend to assume ridehail is always faster than public transit. But that’s not true at all. While some a-to-b trips are faster in a car — and other trips (especially in traffic-jammed downtowns) are faster by transit — a surprising number of trips can be improved by combining both.
Savvy commuters have known this for years. But why aren’t more ridehail regulars combining modes?
In most cities, to complete a multimodal trip, you have to use one app to get public transit times, then book a well-timed ridehail to get to the station, before your train or bus. And that’s assuming you even know your multimodal options! (Good luck, tourists.) Today’s multimodal trips require so much local knowledge; so many juggled apps; so many arrival time comparisons; and so many opportunities to get snagged by missed connections.
To illustrate this point, consider our copywriter, Joe. (He takes the bulk of his ridehails after tippling beers in obscure Montreal neighbourhoods .) For Joe, doing the mental math of “the ridehail ETA is 7 minutes, the drive itself is 7 minutes, and the last metro leaves in 17 minutes. Will I make it?!?” can be daunting. So tipsy Joe gives up, and takes a ridehail the whole way home.
To ensure riders like Joe aren’t forced to make crude choices between ridehail and transit, we had to make it dead simple to take a multimodal trip. We had to design our trip planner so that public transit was at the forefront, transfers were easy, no mental math was required, and ridehail wasn’t replacing public transit for trips, or trip legs, that had no business using a car.
By integrating multiple ridehailing operators (Uber, Lyft, Via, Ola, Téo & more to come) we can offer the best ridehailing suggestions — while helping more riders unlock the efficiencies of public transit. If one ridehailer isn’t fast enough to make your train, we’ll find you one that is, where possible.
When you’re under pressure to make a transit connection (10-minute ridehail ETAs, a 15-minute window to make your train, and a 60-minute wait until the next train comes) you might reflexively say “to hell with the train” and book a ridehail, all the way home.
But with Transit’s trip planner, you can quickly find out if another ridehail service can help you make the train. You can hail the ride, pay for the trip, and arrive at the station — all without having to do mental math and juggle apps. Which secures a win for you (cheaper trip, shorter commute) and a win for your city (one less pointless car on the road).
It’s been a while since cities logged a “win” from ridehail. While ridehail services promised to connect more people than ever to public transit, recent studies suggest that ridehail is adding more car traffic and stealing rides away from public transit. ☹️
In theory, ridehailing services are perfect complements to transit. They make it easier to live car-free, knowing you can always hail a car, without needing one in your driveway. And for people in transit deserts, ridehail can connect them to transit hubs (for first- and last-mile trips.)
And it’s why — despite some misgivings — transit agencies have partnered with ridehailers like Uber, Lyft, and Via.
But it’s also why transit agencies are so psyched about transit-oriented ridehailing. We’ve taken ridehail’s “first- and last-mile” advantage out of theory, and put it to into practice. With Transit+, we now emphasise connections to transit — rather than itineraries that jealously try to capture the bulk of your miles. What’s more, we’ve integrated more operators, so agencies aren’t put in the awkward position where their “official transit app” doesn’t support their “official ridehailer”.
Forced to pick “transit or ridehail”, Transit+ now offers agencies and riders a third — and better — choice. And while still in beta, our multimodal trip suggestions are getting better every day.
Better mobility choices lead to better mobility outcomes. But that’s not possible if riders don’t know how to easily combine transit with other modes. Hence why we’re encouraging mobility providers to work together. Whether they’re transit agencies, ridehail companies, bikeshare companies, or the folks behind those adorable (and city-saving) scooters. It’s why the entire industry has endorsed the Shared Mobility Principles: calling for interoperability and open data, shared between providers.
And it’s what inspires Transit’s neutral mobility platform: where you get nothing but the very best trip suggestions — no funny business.
Only funny GIFs. We promise. 🤞
More than trip plan comparisons, more than integrated booking + payments, we’ve gone ahead and designed a ridehailing experience that puts public transit at the centre.
We think transit-oriented ridehail is a big step forward for urban mobility. But big steps require big legs, and big legs can support more multimodal options than “transit + ridehail”…
Scooters? E-bikes? You said it not us. 👋 🚆
Introducing Transit Accounts: a universal solution to bikeshare and public transit payments — with more modes coming, in more and more cities 🛴🚖
From subways to scooters, our app Transit is the open, neutral alternative to “walled garden” transport apps.
Monopoly-seeking behaviour and closed data policies will impede the shift away from cars… can our cities help prevent it?