Lyft creating a bus network isn’t that funny.
On Monday, Lyft announced that it was launching Lyft Shuttle. The service lets you ‘walk to a designated pick up stop, get in a shared car that follows a designated route, and drops you off at and end stop’. Basically, a single end point bus system.
People quickly got to poking fun at this reinvention of a system as simple and common as the bus. However, contrary to traditional public transit, this Lyft shuttle is exclusive to a certain crowd. It presupposes that you own a smartphone, and can afford to pay the shared fare. Basically, it presupposes that you have a certain amount of disposable income, and thus excludes the poorer parts of society.
Now, in my view this is already becoming problematic, but suppose for a second that you don’t really care about having a service that some people can’t afford. After all, economics is about making choices with limited resources, yada yada. This poses another problem, which is that by creating a privatized, exclusionary transit system, you directly attack the revenue of the existing public transit system. Public transit works because we as a society can generate enough demand to create the economies of scale which make it viable.
The smartphone-less, wether by poverty, age, or disability are thus not only priced out of your new private system, but eventually they also lose access to their existing public system. This is the real problem with the Lyft shuttle, and other versions of private transit.
For those of us who can afford it, it offers a cheaper taxi experience, or a higher quality bus experience.
But for those of us who couldn’t afford taxis in the first place, it kills the main mode of transportation : public transit.