Economy

Lyft's New Service Highlights a Real Problem With Our Cities

June 19th 2017

By:
Kyle Jaeger

The ride-share company Lyft is rolling out a low-cost transit service called Lyft Shuttle—and people are noticing that the concept sounds awfully familiar.

Lyft

Here's how Lyft Shuttle works: You open the app, find a preset route, walk to a pickup point, and exit at a designated stop near your destination. It is, in essence, a privatized bus service.

While jokes about out-of-touch Silicon Valley executives patting themselves on the back for reinventing the wheel write themselves, the unfunny truth is that public transportation in the U.S. is in decline—and investments in transportation infrastructure are seriously lacking.

The American Society of Civil Engineers gave the U.S. a "D+" with respect to infrastructure in its latest annual report. It says that "while the physical condition of America’s road pavement and bridge structures has improved, roadway congestion continues to increase over time, and the condition of America’s public transportation facilities and equipment continues to decline."

bus

Public support for investing in public transit is high. In 2014, the American Public Transportation Association released a report that showed 74 percent of people embrace spending on public transportation. But that same report noted that only 5 percent of people actually use mass transit.

"People believe transit has collective benefits that don't require their personal usage," The Atlantic reported.

Pew

The collective embrace of mass transit spending hasn't translated into greater investment from federal, state, and local governments. As ATTN: previously reported, the decline in spending on mass transit has directly led some jurisdictions to consider private-public transportation partnerships with the likes of Uber or Lyft.

President Donald Trump's much-anticipated $1 trillion infrastructure plan is expected to include transportation investments. But proposed budget cuts would also eliminate an Obama-era grant program that's been used to "fund a variety of transportation projects, including high-speed and intracity rail, highway construction and transit bus systems," Reuters reported.