SE Vehicles

Urban Transit (2)

Oct 16, 2016

APTA researchers looked at the traveling habits of 4,500 people in seven U.S. cities (Austin, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C) and found that the more people use shared services like Lyft and Uber, the more likely they will use public transportation.

Two key findings of the study that was conducted for the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) by the Shared-Use Mobility Center (SUMC) are:
1. The more people use shared modes, the more likely they are to use public transit, own fewer cars, and spend less on transportation overall. People who routinely use several shared modes, such as bike sharing, car sharing (like Car2Go or ZipCar), and ride sharing - save the most money.
2. Shared modes complement public transit, enhancing urban mobility. Ride-share services are most frequently used for social trips between 10 PM and 4 AM, times when public transit runs infrequently or is not available.

In fact, among those that use Lyft and Uber, 50 percent say they use a train and 45 percent report using a bus frequently. As the study shows, people who use public transit and these shared services are making a lifestyle change that results in more walking, less driving and greater household savings because of overall lower transportation costs. "Customers expect choice and convenience when they travel", said Dallas Area Rapid Transit President Gary Thomas. "Working with Uber and Lyft, and integrating them into our own transit app, is one way we can do that." The study found that there are a number of public sector transit agencies that are eager to collaborate with private mobility operators.

Taking over transit?...
'A bit' of competition could push sometimes slow-moving transit agencies to innovate and improve. Can new arrangements improve service for customers, save agencies money, keep transit authorities from constantly having to raise fares in the what's called the 'farebox recovery ratio' (fare percentage that covers the total costs)? Most transit systems are not self-supporting, so advertising revenue and government subsidies are required to cover the costs. The farebox recovery rate is much higher in Asia (profitable in Hong Kong and Singapore) than in Europe (40-60 percent), which in turn is higher than that of cities in the U.S. (on average 30 percent).

A future in which ride-sharing companies fully replace mass transit is unlikely. There are too many advantages built into existing systems. Buses, trams and trains carry more people than cars and vans. The benefits of fixed transit lines - structured and stable development corridors and dedicated rights-of-way - are simply not replicable by ride-share companies. While Uber and Lyft will likely continue to grow, they are unlikely to draw riders off well-functioning transit lines. But they can complement them.

Or working together?
A likely outcome of ride-share company and transit authority collaboration is that there will be more of what's already taking place in Centennial, Colorado and Altamonte Springs, Florida - small-scale cooperation that can be replicated. Mentioned municipalities are attempting to address what is know in the transportation branch as the 'first mile/last mile' problem. Residents and visitors can now get a free ride to the nearest train station. The ride is paid for by the local public transit agency, but it’s not a public bus that makes the trip. Rather, it’s a car driven by someone working for ride-share companies Lyft and Uber. The idea is that many potential transit riders don’t use the service because it’s too far from either the beginning or end of a given trip. Offering ride sharing as a way to connect from the doorway to the transit stop may help overcome this issue.

There are also risks. Public-private partnerships may well enhance the perception that ride-share companies cater mainly to higher-income users and people without disabilities. They wreaked havoc in the taxi branch, effectively undercutting the entire industry in some cities. Mobility rights advocates and transit employees fear the same thing could happen to public transit. An additional risk is that public transit agencies may over commit themselves to ventures that fail. Ride-share companies are more nimble; they have no set routes and have far fewer equipment and overhead costs. They are free to pursue routes and partnerships that make money and abandon those that do not. Public agencies must ensure that they - and their riders - are not left immobile if ride-share companies pull out.

Vehicle weight crucial for battery-powered zero-emission transit
Lower battery costs means less expensive electric cars. With range anxiety now a common deterrent to buying a full-electric car, larger capacity batteries are needed for adequate range. The cost of lithium-ion battery power has dropped by about 80 percent in the last eight years. One kilowatt of power that cost roughly $1,000 in 2008 is now closer to $200. Advancing battery technology plus the construction of new battery factories could bring prices down to $100 per kilowatt in the next few years.

Making the switch to electric vehicles, is where ride-share companies also have the upper hand over public transit authorities. If we are to make the transition to zero-emission vehicles, especially from a viewpoint of improving the urban living environment, then vehicle weight poses a major problem for battery power. Need more range? Add extra batteries. Need more passenger space? Add more batteries. Actually, the relationship between weight and range is worse than one-to-one. For each extra kilogram of battery, the vehicle mass grows disproportionately due to: added support structure for the larger battery pack, the larger motor capacity to accelerate the extra mass, larger braking systems to halt the heavier vehicle, larger suspension to provide a smooth ride. That is why it is almost impossible to have battery-powered public transport buses with an adequate range. The same applies to vans that are converted to people carriers, like Chariot is operating in San Francisco.

Ralph Panhuyzen, sevehicle@gmail.com

Will ride sharing overtake car sharing? Will the both of them reduce car ownership and lead to dwindling car sales? Trends and paradoxes - the findings presented were all taken from surveys conducted this year. Click on Previous to read about them.

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