Smart city

When on-demand mobility services meet public transport

  • 07 Mar
  • 2 min

From Uber to City Mapper, not forgetting Next, an ever-growing number of companies are coming up with initiatives designed as a cross between on-demand mobility services and public transport systems.

On 21 February, Uber announced plans to expand its ExpressPool service, which has been tested out in San Francisco, to several other US cities. The basic proposition is to enable passengers to reduce the cost of their journey by walking for a few minutes to join other customers at a pick-up point. Uber will then drop them off close to their final destination.  Meanwhile, London-based startup CityMapper has also just set up a ‘hybrid’ transport system called Smart Ride, which conveys passengers from A to B in mini-vans. Just like the traditional bus service, Smart Ride works on the basis of pre-determined routes, but they are continually adjusted to meet user needs. This type of service, a cross between shared taxis and public transport, is nowadays becoming increasingly popular. Chariot, which operates in San Francisco and Austin, Texas; and Via, available in New York, Washington and Chicago, work on the same principle. Then there is Next, a Silicon Valley-based company, which has set up a pilot project in Dubaï.  

Nevertheless, the failure of startups Bridj and Leap shows that it is not all that easy to come up with a profitable business model for transport services that charge low-priced fares in spite of having to bear sizeable costs. One solution here might be for the innovative mobility providers to enter into partnership with a local transport company, an idea currently being examined by the Los Angeles city authorities.

By Guillaume Renouard