Op-Ed: Microtransit Shouldn't Replace Public Transit
In this piece, Jarrett Walker identifies a potential niche for microtransit, which includes services like UberPool, LyftLine, Bridj, and Leap, among others. What we should avoid, he argues, is a situation where private microtransit companies completely replace public transit.
Instead, "The way forward is for less expensive service tools, including the upstarts, to focus on lower-density suburbia where the land use patterns make efficient big-vehicle transit geometrically impossible. The upstarts could even become contractors of the transit agency part of the time -- paid to do things that they can do more efficiently than big buses can -- as taxis often are today."
If private and public transit cannot find equilibrium, we may face either a cutthroat mobility market or more of the same inefficient public services. "But when I hear the upstarts appealing to elitism, and derogating conventional high-efficiency transit, I wonder where we'll end up ... One thing is for sure: This sector is going to need strong regulation to turn it into a force for good."
Of course, private microtransit has long been a viable mode for city-dwellers in poorer countries. Lacking all start-up flashiness, a multitude of vans and small buses already fills the gaps left by public transit in places like Mexico City and Mumbai.