By adding a carpool function to their apps, Uber and Lyft have stepped into the grey area between driving your individual car and more traditional forms of public transport like buses, trains, metros and taxis. They are both starting new services in San Francisco.
Now these companies are moving from competing with taxis and FHV into a new arena: ride sharing. Which could bring them closer to competing with traditional public transport. Both Lyft and Uber are launching services that will group riders along similar routes into the same car. Lyft Line is a service which puts people going in the same direction in the same car for a lower rate. Users just tap the ‘Line’ button on the Lyft app and get matched with other riders. The driver picks up a maximum of three riders nearby and drops them off at their destinations. Riders who choose this carpooling option will get a reduced rate, even if they end up riding alone. It will be even lower if other people check in, while drivers will get the same cut of each fare as they do on solo trips. Specific rates haven’t been released, but Lyft says a trip normally costing $40 could cost as little as $20 or $25 with additional riders.
Whilst Lyft Line is up and running, competitor Uber announced a similar service called UberPool for mid-August and it’s also trying to lure carpoolers with reduced rates. Uber claims its current service can save up to 40 per cent over a taxi fare, and now says UberPool will offer an additional 40-percent savings on top of that. If these carpool services take off – with multiple passengers making multiple stops – ridesharing could start to look more like public transport than the private car service they started as. Will they put more people in the same number of cars or eat away at public transport services? Or both? And how to local governments regulate these services?
• Lyft Line now competes with carpooling services and public transport. Photo: Lyft.