Smart city

Subscription services driving the spread of new approaches to mobility?

  • 07 Aug
  • 2 min

Booking a shared ride on Uber or Lyft or transiting the city on a self-service bike or electric scooter are still rather exotic modes of transport for many people. The fixed payment plan or subscription service approaches now being tested might change the situation.

Nowadays there is a much broader range of passenger transport options available than a few years ago. On-demand vehicle and ride-hailing services, plus self-service bikes and electric scooters, all of which appeared during the last ten years, have already made considerable headway in cities. For many people however, these modes of transport remain the exception rather than the rule. Calling on Uber or taking an on-demand scooter for all your journeys could quickly add up to a heavy budget item. But what if you could take out a monthly subscription for such services? This is the approach that Lyft and its main competitor Uber, plus also self-service electric bicycle provider Jump, are now testing out with a view to broadening the use of their services or at least optimising usage for some of their customers. Jump for instance recently emailed  an invitation to customers to sign up for the Jump+ service:  a monthly subscription of $49.99 (compared with the standard charge of $2.17 for the first 30 minutes of use) for unlimited use of your own dedicated Jump electric bike and charger, which looks a fairly attractive deal when you consider that Jump is also offering to throw in free-of-charge maintenance of the two-wheeler. However, this move by the New York City-headquartered startup, which was recently acquired by Uber, was designed to test customer reactions and the pilot test has not yet been officially launched. Meanwhile Lyft's new subscription service, which costs $7.99 per month, entitles users to lock in the set price of their most frequent route, such as the commute from home to the workplace and back – thus avoiding having to pay higher rates during peak-demand periods. Uber had already offered a similar subscription plan to some users. During the last few months, both of these San Francisco-based mobility specialists have also been offering their most loyal customers a more traditional subscription service – Lyft providing 30 rides for $199 per month, or 60 journeys for $399; and Uber charging users in San Francisco $30 for 40 rides, then $2 for every shared ride and $7 for each non-shared ride. This could lead to one-off transport solutions for specific needs turning into a habitual way of getting around. In similar vein, Air France's Pass offer is intended to encourage people to buy several tickets for flights to the same destination at a price which is set in advance for a given time-period. This offer – basically a sort of wholesale ticket deal that enables airline passengers to purchase flights for themselves and up to nine of their family members or friends – could prompt people to go for the sort of deal offered by Lyft in Chicago – tokens valid on a number of different modes of transport available to those who sign up and agree not to use their own private vehicle. If the multimodal approach is – as seems likely – set to become the future of mobility, we might one day see the arrival of annual all-access subscription services that entitle every subscriber to use all existing modes of  transport.

By Sophia Qadiri