The Future of Transportation

Imagine if half the cars you see out your window didn’t exist.

Imagine cities where the traffic flows freely at rush hour. Imagine commutes that bring people together instead of making them angry with each other through closed car windows. Imagine greater numbers of people living closer together yet burning less energy and pouring less carbon into the air.

A few years ago, we hit an important inflection point: more people live in cities than rural areas for the first time in human history, according to a 2014 report from the United Nations. People crave community, more efficient living, and easier access to the places they want to go.

The Millennial Generation — the biggest American generation in history — is reversing the migration into rural areas and moving back to city centers. This unprecedented influx to cities and the urbanization of the suburbs will cause the biggest change to our physical environment that we’ll see in our lifetimes. But the only way it will work is if transportation profoundly changes. The culture of the car can’t exist hand-in-hand with the culture of the city.

We created Lyft because we want to establish a radically different concept of personal transportation. We want people to think of transportation as a service enabled by technology, instead of as an expensive and large piece of hardware to own. It’s a similar shift to the one going on now in music, from owning hard copies to getting it on demand through a streaming service. On-demand ridesharing can make cities less congested and polluted and free up resources. Shared rides can become so affordable that they cost the same as a bus ride today.

Making an impact with ridesharing is closer to reality than you might think. By increasing occupancy in seats, we can have a significant impact on cities. Eighty percent of seats on the road are unoccupied at any given time. If we can increase occupancy just slightly, traffic jams can disappear.

We’re already starting to see how this can work with our Lyft Line service. Lyft Line is a mobile, carpooling service — allowing a driver heading to her destination to easily pick up others along that route, filling open seats in cars. Within just six months, Lyft Line comprised more than 50% of all Lyft rides in San Francisco, one of our earliest markets. It’s a barometer of what we expect to see in the near future in other cities. When we matched the price of a Lyft Line ride to the cost of public transportation, more than 90% of passengers were matched with other riders heading in the same direction. This gave us a glimpse into the future. Most matches happen within one minute, and as more people experience the benefits, that will only continue to get faster, better. Drivers can go hours without having an empty seat in their car.

We designed the Lyft experience with multiple passengers in the car in mind, so it would feel different than a taxi or limo. We wanted people to feel comfortable riding with someone they hadn’t met. Basically, we want to connect people, not cars.

Younger generations are already bringing new perspectives on car ownership. They are getting their driver’s licenses later, if at all. Those who do drive, drive less than previous generations.

For over 15 years, I’ve thought about how differently our world would look if we changed transportation. Growing up in Los Angeles, I saw gridlock caused by solo-drivers on the 405. It seemed so inefficient, and impersonal. On a trip to Zimbabwe, I was inspired by how resourceful people were in the absence of established public transportation — and it made me realize we could learn a lot from them. I joined the Board of the Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District early in my career and realized that public services can’t fill all the gaps in the transportation needs of a community. It’s going to take private enterprises like Lyft and the participation of millions of riders and drivers.

Our early success with Lyft Line is, we believe, a crystal ball view at the future. We can take cars off the roads, and make our cities more livable. To us, this is not just a business. It’s a mission.

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