“Now that people are using mobility as a service instead of owning their own cars as often as they used to, it really changes the way people need to use physical space in cities,” states Emily Castor, Director of Transportation Policy for Lyft. She points out that ridesharing services, such as Lyft, change the need for on-street and off-street parking. As such, planners need to account for mobility as a service as they set rules for buildings and land-use.
Castor suggests that now is also the time to review traditional scheduled public transportation and to determine how it can work with on-demand last-mile transit. Her thoughts are reinforced by a recent article from the Brookings Institution that suggests that the real innovation that should be sought is one, “where transit agencies and TNCs (transporation network companies) seamlessly work together to maximize social benefit.” [Added 7/8/16 – this is further bolstered by a recent study suggesting ridesharing can reduce social inequalities by improving access to jobs, healthcare, etc.]
With its Friends with Transit campaign, Lyft is working with transit agencies to consider ridesharing alternatives to traditional public transit for thinly traveled bus routes and/or meeting demand after normal bus service hours (such as what Pinellas County Florida is doing with its subsidized rideshare program for low-income riders). As examples of the opportunity to serve as a public transit feeder, Lyft indicates that in San Francisco 19 percent of weekend rides occur between midnight and 5 AM and that 24 percent of rides start or end near transit.
Adding autonomy to the ridesharing mix will, as Castor says, democratize mobility, by significantly reducing costs. This will make it easier for people of all abilities to get around. This view is bolstered by General Motors’ investment in Lyft earlier this year and its long-term goal to create an integrated network of on-demand autonomous vehicles. Echoing Castor’s advice, city planners had better start planning for the impact that will result with this sort of significant changes expected in mobility. .