Lyft wants to pick you up from the train tonight. In its latest bid to compete against market leader Uber, Lyft has partnered with 25 cities to integrate public transit options into its app.
The integration with local transportation authorities comes as part of a larger app update that takes effect today and will launch more broadly by the end of June. The new app will give users the ability to walk to set destinations along a route for pickup, to make shared rides faster (much like Uber’s Express Pool option), and create a one-touch ride for a more recurring ride. Lyft Line is also taking on a new name: Shared Rides.
In early testing among employees, the company says that shared rides have increased 5% with the new app design.
But the tie-up with local public transportation authorities is by far the meatier announcement. The product is intended to have a Lyft drop off a passenger at say, a train station, and then pick them up once they reach their destination to take them on the next leg of their journey. In effect, a Lyft could roll up to meet you just as you’re stepping off the bus. How it works is, riders enter a desired destination. If it makes sense for the rider to take public transit as part of their journey, Lyft will suggest a route and include the price of public transit in its total fare. However, Lyft cannot charge the rider for the public transit fare or book a ticket on their behalf. Riders will have to purchase a ticket however they normally would. This obviously makes the whole experience a little less magical.
Of course, Lyft isn’t the only ride-hailing company interested in partnering with cities on public transit.
At a conference in February, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi expressed a similar interest in public transit, according to the Financial Times. “I want to run the bus systems for a city,” he said. “I want you to be able to take an Uber and get into the subway . . . get out and have an Uber waiting for you.” Uber already has a partnership with Masabi that allows patrons to buy public transit fares in its app. Additionally, both Uber and Lyft partner with various cities to provide subsidized first- and last-mile rides to commuters.
In the competition between Lyft and Uber, Lyft seems to have scored a point in rolling out this kind of integration first.
Passengers in Marin County and Santa Monica, California, will be among the first to see the integration between Lyft and public transit. Other cities that will see an integration with public transit include Detroit; Summit, New Jersey; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Miami. Lyft plans to bring this functionality to other cities throughout the year.
Though much of this program has yet to take shape, it is likely that the experience will vary from city to city. Public transit systems are so different from place to place, with some barely able to know when buses come and go and others with live updates delivered straight to an app. What would ultimately be great is if Lyft is able to integrate local transit APIs into its app, so it can really sync up with cities. For now it will be basing its public transit suggestions off of schedules.
Over the next two years, Lyft wants to drive up the number of shared rides on its platform to 50%.