Uber App Connects Riders to Public Transportation
Q’STRAINT Client weighs in on its Impact to the Transit Industry
Imagine riding in an Uber vehicle with the ability to shorten the trip and find a less expensive public transportation alternative through the popular ride-sharing app. While this new service, which is being rolled out in phases – may be surprising to some – it will soon become a reality in Denver.
Uber recently added support for public transportation directly into its popular ride sharing app by partnering with the Denver-based public transit company – Regional Transportation District (RTD).
“We are bringing transit as a way to get around, which we know in many cases is the best, fastest, and most convenient way for someone to get from A to B within a city,” said Andrew Salzberg, Uber’s head of transportation policy and research informed the USA Today.
This strategic alliance between Uber and public transit agencies will not happen overnight. The Uber app will start off by providing its passengers with the ETAs for public transportation. In the future Uber riders will be able to purchase tickets from within the app, including daily and monthly passes for all various modes of public transportation.
“This is a big shift for Uber,” says David Reich, the company’s head of transit, “They can see how much walking is involved, how many transfers … what are the next few buses that are going to come up, or trains, and then even follow themselves on the map to sort of see their progression towards their final destination.”
Reich also told the USA Today that for the first time the company is suggesting that public transportation might be a better option than taking a traditional Uber.
However, not everyone is completely on-board with Uber’s new product offering. Let’s take Jim Egbert, transportation operations manager for Manatee County Area Transit, for example.
“I’m not convinced that it will be used everywhere as Uber may only make it available in markets where their service is located,” said Egbert. “Maybe with some improvements it may be more useful, but in its initial format, the underlying message is that with Uber you will get to your destination faster.”
Coming to a City near You
So when is this game changing feature coming to a city near you? Uber plans to launch the transit app connectivity in increments over the course of the year in other U.S. cities as well as worldwide.
What’s in it for Uber?
Reich would not go into detail when asked if Uber will get a percentage of ticket sales bought from within the app. He does, however, say that tickets purchased through the app won’t be more expensive compared to traditional methods.
“At some point, I believe Uber is going to come back to cooperating transportation agencies and say okay we will list your transit authority on our app, but it is going to cost you a subscription fee,” Egbert predicted. “Right now they are not charging Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD), but I do not see them offering this service for free forever. Somehow they are going to get compensation for providing this service.”
The Mobile Ticketing Play
Or perhaps Uber is playing the long game with an early foray into the emerging mobile ticketing market – still in its infancy.
“In today’s world of technology, mobile ticketing is the way to go and there are a number of platforms already out there,” Egbert added. “Uber could be using their new functionality to test this potentially lucrative market. And since they already have a strong national presence, even if you are not one of their passengers, they can still make money by selling you a transit property ticket. Ultimately, this may be an opportunity for them to get a jump into the mobile ticket provider industry now and have the infrastructure set up if the industry takes off.”
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