The Last Mile May Hasten the End for Transit

Amtrak has agreed with Lyft to cooperate to allow the railroad’s passengers to order a Lyft ride from Amtrak’s own app. Dallas transit riders can call Uber to get them from a transit station to their final destination. A town in New Jersey is offering the same service to New Jersey Transit riders.

Transit agencies have long known that their transit vehicles usually can’t reach the final destinations for every rider, something known as the last-mile problem. Now, some of them see Uber and Lyft as the solution to that problem.

This is going to bite them in the end. A century and a half ago, river boat companies thought that railroads would solve their last mile problem. It never occurred to them that the railroads would soon be competing against them by building along the rivers. Within a few decades, the river boats were out of business.

Uber and Lyft don’t even have to build new infrastructure parallel to transit lines, as that infrastructure already exists. All the ride-hailing companies have to do is reduce their costs. Lyft’s shared-ride mode, Lyft Line, which may pick up or drop off other riders in the course of your journey, is often price competitive with transit, though not as quick as a regular Uber or Lyft.

In the 1920s, Hertz approached the Great Northern Railway to see if it wanted to cooperate in providing car rentals at its stations. The railroad’s president, Ralph Budd, replied that he didn’t see any reason to be promoting the railroads’ competition. Eventually, railroads did work with Hertz and other car rental companies, but it didn’t help prevent the decline in passengers. If I were a transit agency general manager today, I would be pretty dubious about providing more business that would profit my biggest competitors.

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5 thoughts on “The Last Mile May Hasten the End for Transit

  1. Dave Brough

    @Antiplanner: “If I were a transit agency general manager today, I would be pretty dubious about providing more business that would profit my biggest competitors.”
    Hopefully, the people that hired you would realize that your job isn’t to protect your ($300k/yr) job but to move folks from where they are to where they want to go, and if there were a new technology that was more-better-less, to use it. And to delist jobs and the people in them that did not work towards that goal.

  2. the highwayman

    AP;Amtrak has agreed with Lyft to cooperate to allow the railroad’s passengers to order a Lyft ride from Amtrak’s own app. Dallas transit riders can call Uber to get them from a transit station to their final destination. A town in New Jersey is offering the same service to New Jersey Transit riders.

    THWM; Station wagons got their name from taxis taking people and their baggage to/from train stations.

    AP; This is going to bite them in the end. A century and a half ago, river boat companies thought that railroads would solve their last mile problem. It never occurred to them that the railroads would soon be competing against them by building along the rivers. Within a few decades, the river boats were out of business.

    THWM; You can get to the city centre of Ottawa by boat on the Rideau canal, but the last time that a passenger train went to Ottawa Union Station was in 1966!

    AP; In the 1920s, Hertz approached the Great Northern Railway to see if it wanted to cooperate in providing car rentals at its stations. The railroad’s president, Ralph Budd, replied that he didn’t see any reason to be promoting the railroads’ competition. Eventually, railroads did work with Hertz and other car rental companies, but it didn’t help prevent the decline in passengers. If I were a transit agency general manager today, I would be pretty dubious about providing more business that would profit my biggest competitors.

    THWM; Government is anti-rail, roads are not expected to be profitable to survive :$

  3. metrosucks

    But what about the 100k miles of track that was disappeared in the US? Someone stole these tracks and sold them as scrap for meth, to treat his autism. We need to find this person and prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law.

  4. CapitalistRoader

    The Denver suburb of Centennial did a first/last mile Lyft/light rail pilot program. The final result here and the most relevant result:

    GOAL 2-2: IMPROVE SERVICE LEVELS FOR FIRST AND LAST MILE SERVICE RIDERS

    MET
    Service levels for first and last mile services were measured by advanced booking time, since wait time is not measured by RTD. Call-n-Ride service requires at least two-hours (120 minutes) advance booking. The average time between booking a ride and the arrival of the driver for the Go Centennial and Go Centennial Access program is 5 minutes and 15 seconds. This is a 95 percent decrease in booking time from Call-n-Ride to Go Centennial, meeting Goal 2-2 of at least a 25 percent reduction in booking time.

    The Call-n-Ride is a shuttle bus service run by RTD.

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