I’ve always felt that cities have two important structural advantages over Lyft and Uber. First, cities can run transit at a loss, and second, cities control the design of the streets. From SFMTA:
The SFMTA got the green light to paint red transit-only lanes in 2012 from the California Traffic Control Devices Committee and the Federal Highway Administration as an experimental measure to improve driver compliance with transit-only lanes. If proven to be a success, the red transit lane treatment could become a national standard for transit-only lanes, similar to green bike lanes. The red paint treatment is already recommended in the National Association of City Transportations Officials Urban Street Design Guide.
For the time being, venture funding allows Lyft to run at a loss just like transit, but no amount of venture money can change the fact that cities can leave Lyft in traffic while buses are given dedicated lanes. Or can it? From CNN:
With the help of architecture firm Perkins+Will and transportation consultants Nelson/Nygaard, the ride-sharing company has reimagined a street for the future. The teams reenvisioned a concept for Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, a notoriously car-centric city. The average L.A. driver wastes over 100 hours a year sitting in traffic.
Wilshire Boulevard’s design is typical of the city boulevards – there are currently 10 vehicle lanes, including two lanes that buses share with vehicles.
But Lyft’s design includes trees, protected bike lanes, a loading zone for ridesharing vehicles, three narrowed lanes for vehicles and lanes for autonomous buses. The concept also rewards buses with exclusive travel lanes.
In a classic case of “if you can’t beat them, join them”, Lyft is pushing its own vision of the future of city streets, complete with features that make Lyft better like loading zones. I expect Lyft to push this hard and get users to add pressure on governments. As long as a Lyft is a superior experience to the bus, they might have the popular support to change street design to create their future.