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Uber’s transit offering just went live in Denver (techcrunch.com)
138 points by prostoalex 82 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 95 comments

This means opening Google Maps less, and opening the Uber app more. The ability of Google Maps to show an estimated Uber price and provide a link to the Uber app is nice for Uber but it's better for Uber to have users opening their own app than to have a tiny feature in another company's app.

They might be providing walking directions in the future, I think. And once it's a fully-fledged map app, having it track your location outside of the ride has the same justification as Google.

Wow, I hadn't noticed but they got rid of that feature. Perhaps they'll reinstate it at some point. https://www.theverge.com/2017/8/29/16219542/uber-location-tr...

For UBER it's great - they get highly targeted access to large amount of people needing transportation - AND that are willing to sit next to other people to save money.

So as a first step, they could offer those people to share their first/last mile with other passengers, in a 6-passenger minivan. The price will be cheap/cheapest, and the trip fast(the route will be optimized).

That would be an easy sell. Probably viral. And it would increase transit ridership - and lead to other transportation authorities cooperating.

And Google can't compete with that.

> This means opening Google Maps less, and opening the Uber app more.

I have both installed on my phone. What possible reason could I have for picking the uber one to open up if I'm looking to take public transportation? Is it better in any way whatsoever?

The goal is to let the Uber app do (or at least suggest) the mode choice for you. So instead of thinking 'hmm, I'll use PT, now I need to open app XYZ', you could be 'I want to go from point A to point B. Let me open the Uber app to check my options.' And those options would include the travel times and costs of all available modes.

Basically, the goal is to have one 'transport' app, and that would be the Uber app. Removing mental overhead - never having to think about what app you want to open (I realize how ridiculous it sounds to call that 'mental overhead', but let's just pretend that any non-zero cost is equal and an inefficiency).

Of course this could only happen if the Uber app has all functionality the Google Maps app has, and every bit as good, and also all functionality of all local public transport apps (like, it would have to have up to date information on the exact current location and time of the trains on the route you're looking at, as some PT apps do). This is a huge, dare I say it impossible task. But still, baby steps and all.

> Of course this could only happen if the Uber app has all functionality the Google Maps app has, and every bit as good,

Something that I have found is Uber doesn't seem to be as good as Google Maps doing routing between two people. Google has better traffic management and having routes that are shorter and faster. Uber seems to sometimes take a much longer route. Anecdote, of course but yeah, IMO, they have a long while to go yet.

So the Uber drivers will, in turn, be using Google maps. Or Waze.

I was in Costa Rica and I used Google Maps to navigate my way around some beaches and stuff. And to look at the satellite imagery. Nothing to do with directions or even roads.

No way Uber is competing with that.

Just serving up a bunch of maps and satellite imagery is probably one of the easier things to replicate though.

You would think so but having closely watched this online maps space for more than 10 years there was almost no-one who managed to really compete with Google on delivering nicer maps and nicer satellite views. Yahoo Maps used to have a more useful reverse geo-location API at the very beginning (I think 2005-2006) but shortly after Google caught up even there and they haven’t been surpassed by anyone since then.

Sure, I'm not saying it's easy, but still out of all other things they'd be up against, it'd be on the easier side...

Apple tried it and failed, with a much bigger available budget, but, yeah, maybe if Uber manages to hire the right people from the very beginning they might pull it off.

It's one of the most capital and labor intensive things you can do on the internet. Data freshness, depth, and quality are key and don't come cheap.

  And those options would include the travel times and costs of all available modes.
All available modes, or all available Uber modes? In contract, Google shows you driving, biking, bus, public transportation, and rail all on the same page.

The idea includes offering short hop Ubers with long-haul public transit, which Google won't do. Maybe Google will expand the multi-model option set that's already present in Transit to include short-hop Ubers and then I'd surely go to Gmaps every time.

FWIW, Citymapper already does this.

Looks really nice! Alas not for my city though (Portland, Oregon).

The announcement says that the Uber app will have ticketing, so with Uber you could complete your whole journey, not just plan it.

You can still get Uber pricing directly from inside Apple Maps but Lyft abandoned this plug in. Funny, where I live Lyft was always more expensive, as was completely obvious when I used Apple Maps.

Lyft is cheaper in some markets but I was so annoyed by their fear of comparison that I have stopped using them. And Uber aren't saints, so this is a missed opportunity for Lyft.

I would love to see this come to more cities. I live in a major north American city where public transportation is run by the local government. They have an official transportation app, but it's a buggy mess that's just a wrapper for the phone browser. It features "real time" (their words) route tracking, but as I quickly found out, the busses that move along the map aren't actually representative of the real busses and their locations (e.g. GPS tracking). Instead, their location and arrival estimates are based entirely on where they should be at that time under ideal conditions, making them entirely useless at rush hour and in inclimate weather conditions (which is precisely when people rely on them the most).

As a result, catching the bus is a complete guessing game every day. There are three possible outcomes:

1) The bus arrives 5-10 minutes early and doesn't wait around, so you have to get to your stop at least 15 minutes early.

2) The bus is late (the typical scenario), so you spend 15-60+ minutes convincing yourself you aren't crazy and the bus didn't pass before your eyes while wondering how long you can continue standing outside before getting frostbite.

3) You spend 15-30 minutes standing around in scenario (2) above before getting an "alert" from the app that your route has been cancelled. These late alerts ensure that even if you manage to find a different route to take you to your destination, you'll have to repeat the guessing game above and you'll definitely be late.

Uber and Lyft have numerous problems still, but as far as I'm concerned their disruption of the transportation industry has been long overdue. My local government refuses to expose the transportation API, so even if there was a motivated individual who wanted to make a better app they wouldn't have access to the information they needed. I can't wait for more competition in this space.

Is Transit (https://transitapp.com/) available where you live? If there's no official API for realtime updates, it also allows you to share your GPS data to the rest of the app users for crowdsourcing this info. Overall it works pretty well for me.

Oh Transit fakes data where they don't have real-time info too. They just put a slick interface on it. After waiting in the cold for a once an hour bus that they were lying about I finally uninstalled the app. The incessant prompts to pay for an Uber didn't help matters either.

Not to defend the app in question, but certain public transport organisations publish incorrect data. One example of this is the RATP (Paris public transport) - they refuse to publish live feeds: the data they publish is a basically their "best effort" static timetable.

The data presented by the Transit app matched neither the published timetables nor reality. If memory serves it was marked as real-time data. My assumption is that Transit was using their bullshit "crowd sourced" algorithm.

Plenty of of agencies publish bogus data (e.g.: Muni has predictions for outbound train service even when a train will be taken out of service at the end of the line, as a result only the second to last prediction for the night is valid). This was Transit being useless.

There is a format which exports both regular bus data and real time data.



I'm a bit curious which city you live in, because the majority major cities(at least in the US) publish both GTFS and GTFS real time. This is how Google(and other applications) gather the data. Does Google Maps provide real time data for transit? If not, you may want to get in touch with your cities transit service and inquire why not. I was part of a team that did GTFS(not real time) for a small area, and it was not incredibly expensive. Most of the data the transit service already has and its usually just a matter of doing some transformations on the data into the new format.

I would rather not reveal my city for privacy reasons, but Google Maps also only shows the fixed "schedule" and no real time estimates.

I was not aware about GTFS, but I'll read about it and try and contact the city council maybe. My city isn't small or poor so the problem definitely isn't one caused by lack of resources, but maybe it's just something they haven't considered before. In any case, thank you for your insight.

GPS on buses seems like a no brainer compared to other investments if you want to make public transit more popular. Being able to walk to the bus stop and knowing you’ll wait 1-2 minutes is great compared to running to the bus stop and waiting 15 minutes.

My local authority has had a free public API for a long time and also contacts people following up on how API use is going, arranging meetups for people wanting to code things with the API and so on.

That's too bad. Los Angeles Metro has had "Nextrip", GPS based arrival estimates, on Rapid bus lines for 10+ years, and on Local bus lines for less than that. The service is accurate and absolutely fantastic. I only wish that the UX for casual riders who want Nextrip info on their phones was better.

I don't know why, but this bad practice seems to be in place in so many places. Live tracking seems to be almost uniformly code for Timetable tracking in public transit. In the UK I can stand and watch the live information for the train departing from Waterloo - it'll say the train is on-time for leaving at 5:30. I can go into their own app, identify the physical train that is going to terminate at waterloo and become my train and find out that it left the last station 20 minutes late. Clearly the system is driven by timetables which are then modified by manual entries rather than some actual underlying representation of the trains (which clearly must exist for them to be able to manage their fleet of trains).

? UK Network Rail APIs are the probably the best I've seen. There is ~10,000 real time monitoring sensors on the network. Check out realtimetrains.co.uk for example, which is driven by the STOMP feed from NR (which sends thousands of requests per second on real time location and status of each and every train in the UK).

Regarding your point on outbound trains, often if a train is running late inbound they will have another one take over the duties, so trying to identify it isn't a perfect system for predicting.

The background data may be great, but I regularly experience standing at a station telling me the train is on time when it is already late (after the point the train should have left).

As a counterexample the company running public transport where I’m from actually released this just a few days ago. So it doesn’t seem to be an impossible task.


When I heard Uber was getting into Transit I imagined something more disruptive than just aggregation of different transportation types.

Consider: Public bus systems are constrained to fixed schedules and stops for obvious reasons. Neither apply in a Mobile App.

Uber could sign up drivers who own mini-vans or large buses, and dynamically generate "bus routes" using on key waypoints, and both ongoing and forecasted demand (based on historical data).

As a consumer, the experience is still 1) Pick a destination

2) Go to the spot where Uber asks you to go (Which already happens in places like Airports, or if you use Uber Pool which asks you to move a little closer to the route to decrease driving time

3) Get in the uber

4) Get off at a spot when the app/driver tells you which isn't exactly at your destination but close

All for a much much lower price

Meanwhile, as a driver, the experience is: 1) Follow the Uber app's navigation that tells you where your next 'Stop' is. 2) Drive around in a circle that changes throughout the day.

It's a hard problem to solve and get perfect but it would actually justify improving an existing public service.

Uber is already doing buses in LatAm and MENA. Most North American cities (except NYC really) just don’t have the density to make the unit economics work for a marketplace with buses. Also, Express POOL (shared ride with walking in order to make the trip more efficient) is already dirt cheap.

This sounds a lot like the Dial-A-Ride concept that Santa Clara county Transit tried in the 1970s.

I assume they (and/or lyft and google maps) will eventually do what google maps should already have in my opinion, a final option next to car/walking/bike/transit/taxi: "multi-modal".

A lot of times the fastest way to get somewhere in LA is actually: walk to a scooter, scoot to the train, train to the closest stop, then uber to your final destination.

But that isn't shown automatically and it's a lot of work to calculate it yourself.

Google Maps announced this back in October:

> Drive , walk and ride : support for mixed-mode commutes

> There’s a new feature for people whose commutes involve both driving and public transit. You can see helpful information about when to leave, and for each leg of your trip: you’ll know if there’s traffic on your drive, when the next train departs, and how long it’ll take to walk from the train station to the office. We do the work for you and automatically factor this into your ETA so you can anticipate exactly when you’ll get to work.


Hmm, I just tried this but it makes you choose your mode of transit. One option is “car and public transit” but then when I tried it it had me walking 17 minutes to a bus to a train station. For a total of 81 minutes right now (when just driving would be 30). Also they’re not taking scooters into account it seems, or the ability to take an Uber from a train station..

Caveat: That feature only works if you pay with enhanced access to your (unrelated) data, by enabling Web and App Activity tracking/logging.

I recently flushed years of Google history but I kept the tracking enabled. I’ll keep flushing it regularly and you could do the same.

I don’t really care that they track me for a short time, it’s not like they don’t keep logs anyway.

This is completely absurd and should be grounds for a GDPR complaint for any EU friends.

Wonder if that’s why this is US only.

I use Citymapper for this; have for years (https://citymapper.com/). It does exactly what you're asking for. I too am surprised that Google hasn't eaten their lunch by baking this into Google Maps.

Oh, I hadn’t seen that! But hmm, it doesn’t seem to have jump bikes/scooters, Lyft scooters, bird, or lime in the scooters section, and again there’s no multi-mode.. it just shows walking/biking/Uber/public transit but not a combination of them. It does have a jet pack option which is nice and forward thinking! :)

I get multi-mode suggestions all the time, although the precise mix of options it suggests does depend on the points you're looking to travel between.

Not sure about their scooter coverage though; I don't use it for that.

citymapper has scooters/bikes and multi-mode

actually it's famous for the second one

I suspect that curating accurate transit data is a lot of boring, never ending work, and on the other hand, Google don't think they will have big enough money there(without building something like UBER, not their style), so they don't bother.

Google Maps already has realtime transit information for Sydney (and I suspect, any other transit system which offers Google Transit APIs).

The cool thing is that for Sydney, the same APIs are available to the public: https://opendata.transport.nsw.gov.au/dataset/public-transpo...

Sure. but compared to their competitors, they're really slow.

Google built an API/data standard to standardise this type of data, exactly to solve this problem.

Citymapper[1] will do that to a certain extent and it’s pretty good, especially with docked bikes.

I wish I could tell it I like walking more than catching a connecting bus, so I’m occasionally working on a side project to allow custom routes for common commutes.

[1] https://citymapper.com

/r/denver discussion:


RTD already has their own app for buying tickets. Transit app (or google maps) work well for planning trips. You can’t even actually buy a ticket yet on the Uber app.

> Uber is aiming to increase efficiency, enhance the experience and increase equity and accessibility

What does that mean?

> equity and accessibility

People with disabilities(especially electric wheelchairs).

Uber currently has a service in some markets: https://www.uber.com/ride/uberwav/

Many people with disabilities depend on municipal "paratransit". For example this is for Denver http://www.rtd-denver.com/accessARide.shtml

If you visit the page you can see the experience is less than awesome. You typically need to book your trip a day or more in advance . Considering how expensive paratransit can be for a municipality, I imagine they could see using Uber, even if only for dispatch) as a potential big win in both overall user experience and cost savings.

> increase efficiency

Many muncipalities prefer to do as much in the private sector as possible. Handing ticketing and payment over to 3rd party providers has the potential for cost saving if Uber and other services can do it for less money.

Edit: I should add that I'm not writing this as something I think will end up being true as much as I'm clarifying the corporate speak that Uber is sending out for other decision makers in other municipalities.

I'm a Denver resident and use the train anytime I go to the airport (union station -> DIA). It's probably the easiest fair they do, flat rate. The RTD app is ATROCIOUS -- my first attempt I was double billed. Also, it's functionally worse than a paper ticket because you have to constantly take your phone out of your pocket and open up the RTD app to show the guard. With a paper ticket, you can simply leave the ticket on your seat. I don't even bother anymore, I simply use the physical kiosks at the station. I've never had to wait for a machine, even during the holidays.

I'm sure RTD knows they cannot compete with Uber or any other large company on app quality. So if RTD cannot even handle a simple one-way fair, it's no wonder they're trying to partner with Uber to handle complex fairs that combine walking, buses, trams, and trains.

Also, as others have said, Google Maps does some of this integration already, but it sounds like Uber might be taking over the ticket purchasing part as well? Which does sound nice.

> you have to constantly take your phone out of your pocket and open up the RTD app to show the guard

How often are you checked!?

I've only used a couple of trains in the USA, but in Europe it would be very unusual to be checked more than once on any journey. Twice can happen on long journeys if the guard changes.

Usually there's either no check, or only a check by machine like a ticket gate.

They're trying to integrate Uber with transit. Catch a ride to a bus stop and bus the rest of the way.

Edit: It doesn't look like that's their offering now, but I think they'll move towards it.

That's only one interpretation of what they said. Their statement was specifically vague to allow people to fill in the blanks themselves.

>What does that mean?

It is so vague, it means absolutely anything you want to imagine, and nothing specific. I would be surprised if a variation of that specific line you quoted didn’t end up in the next season of HBO’s Silicon Valley

efficiency: Minimum time, distance & money

enhance the experience: less stressful / research required / more convenient

increase equity and accessibility: make it cheaper so more people can afford it

So, does this just tell you which public transit options you have available, with plans for ticket purchasing in the future? I don't see why any city would want to give uber a piece of their transit fare revenue. Google and Apple both provide great information about navigating public transit as a funnel for new users, and they do it as a free service.

I know it’s tiresome to talk about how Japan lives in the future, but this kind of thing (and more) has been available in Japan in apps like Yahoo! Transit for years: https://transit.yahoo.co.jp

I would love them to add proper hacker routes where you can get from A to B via the best route and include an Uber and traffic into the mix, optimising for the shortest journey and ordering Uber’s automatically as I leave public transport.

Seems like a data play. You’ll likely enable location in the Uber app, so now they’ll get your location passively when you’re just searching public transit routes.

Turn that around and resell the location data to other data aggregating businesses. Or use it in-house to augment forecasting or pricing models.

Seems slimey to me. Public funds should be providing app access for this sort of thing, with audits to demonstrate personal data is not collected.

Really wish it was more popular to lock down privacy options in phones to make it so this sort of thing is not profitable for companies like this.

I look at it more in the sense of Uber's product not being a rideshare app, but being a "move you from point A to B in the best way possible app" (best = meets your cost/time/comfort needs).

Here's a good writeup on the "jobs to be done": https://stratechery.com/2018/aggregators-and-jobs-to-be-done...

I didn’t realize anyone was actually treating that Uber tagline as more than marketing fluff.

The cities could actually charge for access to an api with this data. It would be a new revenue stream for transportation departments and allow for front end viewing to be open to the free market. I'd gladly pay for an app that consisted of OSM with a transit data layer and a strict privacy policy.

I'd be okay requesting the entire map of a region from the front end service to cache and doing the computation with geolocation on my local device.

Denver RTD already does this: http://www.rtd-denver.com/Developer.shtml

And they have an app for checking bus locations and buying tickets, and it's free.

I think the API is great for enabling integrations, but I really hope they keep their existing apps. There's no reason end users shouldn't be able to get the data directly from RTD, and they definitely shouldn't be forced into using a sleazy company like Uber.

Charging anything for information about public services is ridiculous. If there is one thing public services should be able to do is to make it as easy as possible for all consumers to be as informed as possible.

This website has lately been totally unusable, due to the dark-ux workflow at "https://guce.oath.com/collectConsent/partners/vendors"... I hope they're conscious of the traffic they lose. There's no obvious way to dismiss/slip through and be sure that consent has not been given to third-party data collection. Just saying, not the first time I stumble on that f*ckery. Schade!

I'm worried about tying public transpiration to companies that aren't / don't know if they're at all profitable.

You should be much more concerned about tying transportation to a company that _is_ profitable. The point of public transportation is to provide an external benefit. Uber will just interpose itself and extract rents.

I'm not sure I understand what you're saying / the benefit of using a company that is not profitable...

There is no mention of such a benefit in the comment you are replying to. The point is that the qualifiers you applied in your original comment should be less worrisome than their opposites, which is not to say that they shouldn't be worrisome.

Why would they be less worrisome?

Because those companies would be in less of a position to have the effects described in the original reply. I would like to help you more, but I don’t know what is confusing.

What about the extraction of taxes? The government has already imposed itself and setup a coercive monopoly for transportation. They are the ultimate in extracting rents.

If shorter rides are a better deal ($/km) for Uber and the drivers I can see a win in using uber to/from transit stations, especially as in the USA train stations and the like tend to be built away from where people actually want to be. And transit lines in the USA interconnect poorly (the Bay Area is an extreme example but not the only case).

For example using Uber from my house to Caltrain and from the SF Caltrain to my friend's house would be a convenient single booking.

OTOH I am not sure it's true that short trips are more profitable (for Uber or drivers) in which case this is presumably a PR effort.

This would be very useful if they could automatically solve the "last mile" problem for transit. For example, if I can make a single order from home to work, involving both Uber for the short distance from home to the train, and then a train ticket to work, then this could add some value.

Out of context. Why can't I read techcrunch articles on HN app? They load for the first few seconds and disappear. My Firefox app has ublock origin. Does that effect viewing on HN app as well?

Uber has a very large investment in mapping technology and would surely like to expand its applicability, this could very well be the first push to start competing with google maps.

I thought this would be useful for purchasing tickets, since I don't always have exact change when I don't have a pass, but that's not available yet...

Getting into the Municipal ticketing racket won't dig Uber out of their massive money pit.

What do you mean "Municipal ticketing racket"? Did you read the article?

Yeah. You don't think that's a goal? Uber desperately needs to show additional revenue streams as the (un)reality of self-driving cars and food delivery sets in. Muni tickets is big business. Look at Cubic Transportation Systems.

> Initially, the ability to purchase tickets via the Uber app won’t be available, but it’s on the horizon. The in-app ticketing portion, in partnership with Masabi, will be available in the coming weeks, Reich said.

This seems far less like a revenue stream and far more of a way to get people to use Google Maps less. I am sure they have data showing that very many Uber trips in most major American cities starts with a comparison against local public transit.

How is this better than having something like a clipper card (nfc transit card)?

Slightly off topic. I took a Uber ride recently that took the worse route. It went thru many small streets that were full of snow. Cars could not pass each other. They had to slow down for safely. Maybe its a good shortcut in the summer.

I think I’ll continue to use the excellent Citymapper

Oh my, this is would be a game changer for the US!


You don't need to share your bookmarks file here.


> Everything about his clothes screams “down to earth,” “humble,” “stoic,” “thoughtful,” etc.

It's a jean and a hoodie. I think you are reading bit much into it

Maybe the dude knows he can get away with a pretty comfy sweater t-shirt jeans combo, so he does.

What would the appropriate attire be?

Kinnard 82 days ago [flagged]

Do you self-identify as a cynic?

Who cares? Does this have something to do with my comment?

Reading too much into it: public figures have rationalization for what they wear, and a lot more insignificant things. But yes, I’m not saying this guy in particular. I’m not reading into him. It’s about the wide-spread trend. He’s just following the trend.

He’s just being comfortable: a $4000 bespoke silk suit is a lot more comfortable. And trust me this guy probably owns a few garments in that category.

What should he wear: I’m not saying this guy is horrible for choosing to wear this exact garment. He’s following a negative trend, and my comment is about the trend. “God do I hate the fashion of SV,” please read stuff before replying.

It's like Google Maps but perhaps slightly inferior in quality. Smart, I like the way Uber thinks. They should add Apple Maps integration next in order to improve their overall map fidelity.

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