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Transportation Start-up Fails for Being Too Public-Minded

Night School, planning to use school bus fleets to supplement late-night Bay Area transit, lost the regulatory fights Uber and Lyft handily won.
February 22, 2015, 1pm PST | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Susie Cagle reports on the dissolution of Night School, a start-up promising low-cost, late-night bus options in Bay Area neighborhoods under-served by public transit. Like its ride share brethren, Night School drew regulatory attention from the California Public Utilities Commission. But where ride-hailing services succeeded, Night School couldn't push through.

From the metro that brought us the infamous Google buses, using the off-hours school bus fleet as an affordable service was lauded at first. “Unlike Uber and Lyft, [Night School] was not a ‘platform,’ and never described itself as such—it was a private bus service with professional, insured, licensed drivers, regulated vehicles, clear routes, and consistent fares.”

Cagle suggests that the current regulatory environment favors start-ups with significant financial backing, even when they ride roughshod over the rules. Companies that “play nice” cannot compete, even when it might be in the public interest that they do so.

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Published on Tuesday, January 27, 2015 in Pacific Standard
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