14 votes

Uber’s plans include attacking public transit: documents filed for IPO reveal plans to privatize transportation, getting riders off public buses and trains and onto "Uber buses."

20 comments

  1. [2]
    eladnarra Link
    This doesn't bode well for accessible transit. Lyft, Uber face class-action lawsuits for disability discrimination. Public transit is by no means perfect, but it sounds like Lyft and Uber are worse.

    This doesn't bode well for accessible transit. Lyft, Uber face class-action lawsuits for disability discrimination. Public transit is by no means perfect, but it sounds like Lyft and Uber are worse.

    12 votes
    1. s-sea Link Parent
      Holy cow, didn't even realize that this was an issue, but it makes a lot of sense that it is. It poses a rather interesting issue in terms of the ability of Uber/Lyft to continue to operate as...

      Holy cow, didn't even realize that this was an issue, but it makes a lot of sense that it is.

      It poses a rather interesting issue in terms of the ability of Uber/Lyft to continue to operate as they are if they lose the suit (which they prolly will) - taxi and traditional transportation companies will have WAVs available because they own them, but Uber and Lyft rely on their employees to provide vehicles. There's no way that they can ever ensure that there's a WAV driver available for people in wheelchairs, and if they incentivize WAV drivers with higher pay they can't charge more considering they'd then be discriminating on fares.

      I wonder what the defense will be from Uber and Lyft though -- seems like if they lose it they're going to lose a lot more money and/or the ability to serve a lot of smaller communities.

      4 votes
  2. [7]
    sniper24 Link
    Is this not just the end result of not having enough public transport?

    Is this not just the end result of not having enough public transport?

    4 votes
    1. [6]
      alyaza Link Parent
      it's not, at least in the context of this. to quote uber directly here, as mentioned in the article: among other things, their intent here seems to be to try and push people out of using what...

      it's not, at least in the context of this. to quote uber directly here, as mentioned in the article:

      Increasing Ridesharing penetration in existing markets. Our large addressable market opportunity means that with approximately 26 billion miles traveled on our platform in 2018, we have only reached a less than 1% penetration of miles traveled in trips under 30 miles in the 63 countries in which we operate. We believe we can continue to grow the number of trips taken with our Ridesharing products and replace personal vehicle ownership and usage and public transportation one use case at a time, including through continued investment in our affordable Ridesharing options, such as Uber Bus and Express POOL.

      among other things, their intent here seems to be to try and push people out of using what public transportation already does exist. so, while not having enough public transportation doesn't exactly help matters, it also probably doesn't really factor into the arithmetic here (at least beyond them making the call of whether or not to try this approach).

      6 votes
      1. [5]
        sniper24 Link Parent
        Right, but people switching from public transport to Uber will be because available transport is not good enough. Uber exploiting an existing need is the solution to the issues of lack of public...

        Right, but people switching from public transport to Uber will be because available transport is not good enough. Uber exploiting an existing need is the solution to the issues of lack of public transport.

        3 votes
        1. [2]
          Rocket_Man (edited ) Link Parent
          This assumes Uber plays fair, it's reasonable that they could use their funding and other income sources to subsidize an unsustainable service. They would do this just long enough to get people to...

          This assumes Uber plays fair, it's reasonable that they could use their funding and other income sources to subsidize an unsustainable service. They would do this just long enough to get people to switch from public transit then slowly transition to a more sustainable but worse model. It would be unreasonable to expect public transit to try and compete with those kinds of tactics.

          6 votes
          1. kfwyre Link Parent
            Agreed. Plus, assuming Uber will play fair is quite naive at this point. Simply look at the Criticism section of their Wikipedia page and you'll find a wealth of awful behavior. It's not just the...

            Agreed. Plus, assuming Uber will play fair is quite naive at this point. Simply look at the Criticism section of their Wikipedia page and you'll find a wealth of awful behavior. It's not just the usual criticisms of their model, but plenty of outright shady stuff, like hiring people to disrupt competitors' services by requesting and then cancelling thousands of rides, or setting up a protocol that let them avoid giving rides to regulatory agents and would hide their activity from law enforcement officers in places where it's illegal.

            I understand the argument for ride-hailing services, and I myself have used (and liked) Lyft, but I won't give Uber my business.

            4 votes
        2. Greg Link Parent
          Or because Uber chooses to take a short term loss by providing a service below cost, to gain a long-term profit once the competition has been defunded and they can increase prices with impunity.

          Or because Uber chooses to take a short term loss by providing a service below cost, to gain a long-term profit once the competition has been defunded and they can increase prices with impunity.

          5 votes
        3. alyaza Link Parent
          oh, then yes, in theory. i think it's only in theory, though: this seems like something uber is planning, and not something they're already doing, and in any case i do have my doubts that their...

          oh, then yes, in theory. i think it's only in theory, though: this seems like something uber is planning, and not something they're already doing, and in any case i do have my doubts that their plans will be generally successful with respect to this despite the abysmal state of public transit in a lot of places.

          3 votes
  3. alyaza Link
    little bit of a sidenote: this article's focus with respect to how this would impact people (which comes toward the end of the article) is confined to san francisco since it's a sanfran-based...

    little bit of a sidenote: this article's focus with respect to how this would impact people (which comes toward the end of the article) is confined to san francisco since it's a sanfran-based outlet; the strategy is absolutely general, though. it seems like in the future we're going to see uber pushing against the national (and international?) status quo of public transportation in some form.

    2 votes
  4. [10]
    Bullmaestro Link
    If anything can disrupt the public transport market, it's Uber. And here in Britain where our public transport is overcrowded, expensisve and rather shit, I welcome Uber's intervention.

    If anything can disrupt the public transport market, it's Uber.

    And here in Britain where our public transport is overcrowded, expensisve and rather shit, I welcome Uber's intervention.

    1 vote
    1. [6]
      cfabbro (edited ) Link Parent
      Having lived in Canada (Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto), the US (Miami, Boston) and the UK (London), traveled reasonably extensively around all three countries while living in them, and several other...

      And here in Britain where our public transport is overcrowded, expensive and rather shit

      Having lived in Canada (Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto), the US (Miami, Boston) and the UK (London), traveled reasonably extensively around all three countries while living in them, and several other European countries on vacation as well; If you think that public transportation is "overcrowded, expensive and shit" in the UK, IMO you have absolutely no idea how good you have it. Come visit almost any major North American city if you really want to see the true meaning of overcrowded, expensive and shit. ;)

      p.s. I would also be exceptionally wary of inviting uber or any other ride sharing services in to replace public transportation: Uber Was Supposed To Be Our Public Transit

      8 votes
      1. [5]
        Greg Link Parent
        Depends on which bit of UK public transport - TfL is indeed pretty damn good (much as we like to grumble about it), but most of the intercity rail franchises are prohibitively expensive, and bus...

        Depends on which bit of UK public transport - TfL is indeed pretty damn good (much as we like to grumble about it), but most of the intercity rail franchises are prohibitively expensive, and bus services in many other cities are somewhere between "hit or miss" and "unusable".

        3 votes
        1. Luna Link Parent
          I saw an interesting video about this awhile ago, actually. I can't imagine how much worse commuter rail would be in the US if Amtrak were privatized, our population is too spread out for decent...

          most of the intercity rail franchises are prohibitively expensive

          I saw an interesting video about this awhile ago, actually. I can't imagine how much worse commuter rail would be in the US if Amtrak were privatized, our population is too spread out for decent rail service outside the northeast coast.

          3 votes
        2. [2]
          cfabbro (edited ) Link Parent
          Fair enough, I only used the local public transport options daily in London itself (which as you said, are great), and the occasional intercity bus/train to get to a bunch of other places for...

          Fair enough, I only used the local public transport options daily in London itself (which as you said, are great), and the occasional intercity bus/train to get to a bunch of other places for weekend trips. I didn't find those intercity options too expensive, but I wasn't using those daily and if I was I could definitely see that adding up... but honestly, even still, compared to the intercity options here in North America, yours are still generally cheaper and higher quality. And our local public transport options outside the major cities are still generally much more limited than your own IMO.

          2 votes
          1. Greg Link Parent
            Yeah, I think it's absolutely fair to say that a good chunk of the US is even more limited - it's just a shame that a lot of the UK outside London also doesn't get a minimum acceptable standard....

            Yeah, I think it's absolutely fair to say that a good chunk of the US is even more limited - it's just a shame that a lot of the UK outside London also doesn't get a minimum acceptable standard. And a lot of the commuter trains into London are running at 200%+ capacity, after paying £3,000-5,000 for a season ticket to get on them.

            3 votes
        3. bme Link Parent
          Yes, quite. TfL is exceptional in the literal sense. Take Cornwall: you can't even get a bus from newquay airport. Taxi to get home is a 40 minute ride @ £70. That or if your are on holiday you...

          Yes, quite. TfL is exceptional in the literal sense. Take Cornwall: you can't even get a bus from newquay airport. Taxi to get home is a 40 minute ride @ £70. That or if your are on holiday you can hire a car. Beg a friend? It's ridiculous. Leaving a vehicle parked there often is more expensive than the flights.

          2 votes
    2. [2]
      ali Link Parent
      In Germany public transport is divided into a lot of small private companies, the cost is crazy high and it's different in every region. I hope über can bring in some competition here, but seeing...

      In Germany public transport is divided into a lot of small private companies, the cost is crazy high and it's different in every region. I hope über can bring in some competition here, but seeing as norm uber only exists in like 4 cities, I doubt it'll happen any time soon.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_German_transport_associations

      4 votes
      1. JCPhoenix Link Parent
        One of the things about public transportation in the US is that it's almost always publicly-owned and operated. Some special governmental entity runs and oversees it. Colloquially, we don't...

        One of the things about public transportation in the US is that it's almost always publicly-owned and operated. Some special governmental entity runs and oversees it. Colloquially, we don't consider privately-owned options like taxis and Uber to be public transportation. As such, I think this colors the perception of public transportation. "Oh it's the government doing it, no wonder it's so shitty." So in invites the typical thinking that a for-profit company or companies could do it better. But with your experience in Germany, the other commentor's experience in the UK, and my experiences in the Philippines, that's not necessarily true.

        In addition, a lot of people here don't know that older publicly-owned systems in the US generally evolved from the consolidation of for-profit companies. Those companies might have been going out of business and couldn't sustain operations, so the government stepped into continue these much needed routes and services. That's certainly true of Amtrak, the national passenger train service. It's a government-owned corporation that was created to ensure intercity train transportation remained.

        And that gets at my main point: Why would anyone want a company to come in and take over a public system with their for-profit motives? What happens when Uber or Lyft or whomever steps in and decides the bus route I take daily to and from work is unprofitable and cuts it or triples the price to make it profitable? The government exists to provide a service, even if it's not necessarily profitable, because that's not its main motivation. A for-profit has one motivation and there's no guarantees that it would be better or cheaper than what the government offered or can offer.

        5 votes
    3. JCPhoenix Link Parent
      I could see both sides of the argument, largely depending on location. I lived in Chicago for a bit and still visit often. I think its public transportation system is one of the best I've seen, at...

      I could see both sides of the argument, largely depending on location.

      I lived in Chicago for a bit and still visit often. I think its public transportation system is one of the best I've seen, at least in the US and, IMO, it's cheap. Idk if I'd want Uber to mess it up. Edit: Toronto is another place I thought had excellent pub transit.

      Where I currently live in Kansas City, MO, however, it's pretty poor. But it's mitigated, for better or worse, by the fact that pretty much everyone has a car, traffic is nowhere near Los Angeles-levels, and parking space is cheap and plentiful. You can park in our downtown for free. Garage parking is often only a few bucks. Public transportation here suffers from a chicken-or-the-egg problem. If Uber wants to give it a try, good luck. No one will use it.

      The worst I've seen so far is in the Philippines, in Metro Manila. As one of the largest and most densely-packs cities in the world, their public transportation is severely lacking. From what I can tell, public transportation is provided by hundreds of private entities through tour buses, small vans, and of course Jeepneys. It's regulated, but it's not organized. The light rail system isn't as extensive as it needs to be and is overcrowded. That might be a place where a single entity - private or public - could improve it, just by putting everything under one "umbrella." Unfortunately, Uber left much of Southeast Asia, including the Philippines.

      4 votes