The “new urban mobility” — shared and networked cars and bikes and scooters and whatever’s next — promises to eliminate the need for private cars and bring about a more sustainable transportation future. But the reality is far from that promise. Thanks to heavy subsidies by their venture capital owners, Lyft and Uber’s cheap car trips have poached passengers from public transit while adding to congestion. Their drivers endanger people on bikes who have to dodge their cars in the bike lanes and along the curb. People who can’t afford Lyft and Uber — and in our racialized economy, that means disproportionately people of color — are stuck with worse options than before. Typical.
Bike- and scooter-share systems are a better option. Where they exist, their users more closely reflect the population of their community than those who hail Lyft and Uber cars. But those systems can be expensive (except where they are subsidized in rich communities like the Bay Area). These systems will get more expensive as the companies are pressured to show profitability. In addition, they’re not integrated with public transit, they are poorly regulated, and scooters can block sidewalks dangerously impeding people with disabilities. Because they must eventually turn a profit, these shared mobility options are exclusive to privileged communities where the companies can make money. This leaves large but disadvantaged cities in California’s Central Valley completely abandoned. Again… typical.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We at CalBike see great potential in this new mobility paradigm. Integrated with public transit and supported by public funds, shared bikes and scooters could replace most short car trips. A user should be able to transfer from a bus or scooter with their transit pass without paying an extra fare. Fares should be progressive across the whole system, with discounts for low-income people just as there are discounts for seniors and youth on many transit systems. Bikes and scooters should be deployed where they’re needed, not just where they are profitable. Thinking even bigger, trips in shared cars could complement public transit if deployed strategically and integrated in this same manner.
This public-centered vision does not have to shut out the private companies like Lyft, Uber, Bird, Spin, Lime, etc. Properly regulated, these companies could make a reasonable profit while providing good jobs at good wages and equitable transportation service that emphasizes efficient and healthy mobility, i.e. biking and walking.
What would these regulations be? Are rule-breaking startups even interested? If these companies are compelled to emphasize biking and walking, will they — and their customers — become allies in our struggle to reclaim street space for bikes, scooters, and walking? Why did Lyft and Uber buy bike share companies? What does Uber do with the fact that, in central Sacramento, they saw more trips on their Jump bikes than in their Uber cars?!
The plenary will feature representatives from the companies providing this service including Lyft and Uber and the community organizations dealing with the impacts.
Registration is open for the Summit. Register today to join the discussion.