Can public transit and TNCs get along?

Credit: Getty Images.

In the wilds of Los Angeles County transportation, Metro and transportation network companies (TNCs) such as Lyft and Uber have a complex relationship. The data (here, here and here) suggests the relationship may be less rosy that we had hoped. Still the question remains: Can the two benefit from a public-private partnership? Could Metro and TNCs be like the clownfish and the sea anemone living in harmony and providing a unique benefit to one other?

At Metro, we’re working to leverage the convenience of on-demands services. Two such examples are our current Mobility on Demand partnership with Via and the coming Metro Microtransit project. Both pilot programs use the convenience of on-demand technology along with high-occupancy, ride-sharing at lower prices than the private sector can offer. Metro is also in the initial stages of studying how to best manage TNCs.

Metro is also working on a rider promotion with Lyft, which was interested in buying TAP cards that would be used to reward their riders for taking five shared rides. Using the taptogo.net platform, Metro issued TAP credits virtually via a promo code to Lyft. In turn, that allowed Lyft to distribute $20 in TAP credit to qualifying customers without having to pass-out or mail-out cards.

To get the TAP credit, riders create a TAP account online. The TAP credit also unlocks access to Metro’s Bike Share program, part of a Lyft initiative to grow first and last mile mobility options in underserved communities by increasing access to Metro Bikes and expanding the number of Lyft scooters.

Since Mid May, over 3,000 Lyft users have redeemed the TAP credit by creating a TAP account. About half of those people are new TAP users — meaning they are potentially new Metro riders. That’s a big plus for Metro which wants to regain and grow ridership in L.A. County where presently about six percent of commuters use transit and about 70 percent drive alone.

There is certainly a lot more opportunity for the sharing economy to complement public transit. But if more on-demand rides could be shared and some diverted to public transit for part of their trips, TNC rides could reduce the number of overall cars on the road. Metro and Lyft’s collaboration shows that partnerships between TNCs and public transit agencies are possible and can be mutually beneficial.

6 replies

  1. Hmm, only 6%? If that’s the case, why are trains and busses standing room only a lot of the time? 5:30am the 720 was full. Metro does not have the capacity or schedules worked out to accommodate 20% is my thought. Crowded busses are unsafe, and annoying. And the newer trains are smaller than those that are being removed from service. Those of us who rely on public transit almost exclusively, can attest.

    • Exactly, they are standing room only. Try getting a seat on the Red Line during rush hour. Won’t happen unless you board at Uniion Station.

  2. Buses have been removed from local and Rapid service in order to provide the Bus Bridges for the on going, never ending Blue Line re-construction project. If any one believes those buses fell out of the sky , you are only in some dream land.

  3. “the sharing economy” is a scam, based on blatant violation of the law, labor force exploitation and data privacy violations with no apparent accountability. It increases traffic congestion and pollution and expects the rest of us to clean up its mess. The sooner these unethical companies go broke, the better.

  4. TNCs drivers already have their own definition of “sharing”.

    TNCs drivers have no regards for no-stopping red curbs, including at Metro bus stops. TNCs drivers simply accept and discharge passengers right at the bus stops. They are betting the bus drivers need to protect their jobs, and can’t do anything about it.