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Rather Than Saving Public Transportation, We Handed Millions to Lyft and Uber (medium.com)
29 points by ilyaberger 5 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 8 comments





It's one thing to try and quantify the collective "cost" of a hypothetical increase in traffic. It's another to lay blame for that increase on one segment of traffic user, and assume troubles would disappear if that segment were suddenly gone.

Especially as more studies show that most regular cyclical heavy traffic is ultimately supply-side controlled, given any chance to reach equilibrium.

>Finally, given 60 percent of rideshare users who could have used public transportation otherwise

"Studies" like this are worse than misleading. Just because people could have done something doesn't mean they would have.

And public transport ends up paying the price for it eventually, because when arguments like this end up funneling money to public transit projects with inflated demand: 1) they steal money from more beneficial projects based on realistic modeling of life choices, 2) they end up underperforming vs expectations, which makes public transport look bad, 3) if they aren't self sufficient, end up being an operating budget drain in addition to a capital layout drain.


The problem with these underperforming projects is also that you have a kind of bistable equilibrium here.

I don't use the bus to work because it only goes once every half hour, and since it's stuck in city traffic the schedule is completely random.

If there were more buses on this route (e.g. one every 5 minutes), I would not care about the randomness, since whenever I arrive a bus should be there soon. But the transit authority doesn't add buses because there's a low number of passengers on this route, even though there are thousands working at my company that may take the same bus but opt for a car.

Public transit only becomes viable once it's densely connected and frequent enough to be useful. But to get out of this rut you need massive investment.

For this reason any individual public transit projects in the US will always underperform IMHO. You're in one of two equilibria and it's massive costs with little return until you get to the better equilibrium on the other aide, but this would need broad political support to happen.


Yeah, multiple iterations of the chicken-egg problem.

Ironically the only way I see this problem ever being solved is via an extremely responsive, informative, and at least somewhat on-demand version of public transport.

Which I don't really see happening, at least without some sort of competitive market of public private partnerships.

But as long as public transport remains the status-quo, it's not going to overcome that equilibrium battle in the vast majority of the US. And I suspect that would even be the case even given nearly unlimited resources to get there.


Keep in mind that there is a large percentage of intelligent people that believe we will solve the transportation problems in Los Angeles by building tunnels underground that transport individual cars on tracks. The fact that so many people believe that Uber and Lyft solve transportation rather than making it worse is just the tip of the iceberg of delusion.

There's hope though.

Drivers practically only develop enough margin if their cost per mile decreases - and the best ways to do that are for it to be a trip they are already making, it to be a pool, or to be delivering food at the same time - or shorter rides with fixed pickup costs.

And as prices rise as profitably is sought, passengers will look for ways to reduce their trip needs, incorporating public transit again.

Unfortunately, neither of these models supports the number of drivers currently in the system.


It's my belief that everyone except the incredibly naive know that the "rideshare economy" by these companies in the u.s. are just an excuse to buying themselves time until they can smooth out fully autonomous l4-5 driving.

Cars are incredibly cheap compared to human labor and the investors subsidizing each of our rides know fully well that if they don't do so at the moment, people will complain enough and through mutual shared pain figure out effective ways of transportation which will make the costs of developing fully autonomous solutions way higher and increase the risk of people not adopting it when its actually available.

Because inertia and human conditioning.

This does not solve the core issue of inefficient implementation of public transportation, poor planning and bad road design.

As a developed nation, the u.s. has absolutely terrible infrastructure seconded only by its terrible healthcare situation.

However, my thoughts are that when I no longer have to drive myself through bumper to bumper traffic, caused by a few frustrated and short sighted drivers zig zagging during rush hour slowing everyone else down, an hour each way to work, I probably won't mind the effects of poor infrastructure, and neither would others. It would probably be the same as riding in a train to us.

That way I'm not losing hours of time a day doing something I absolutely dislike and abhor instead choosing to use that time productively for myself.

(I don't want to comment on whether remote working will alleviate this for this particular article.)

This is probably what Uber, Lyft, Google and their investors are betting on?


who is "we"?

Stop trying to make public transportation great again. It's over. The market has spoken, and no amount of self-righteous whining about Uber is going to change that.

It gets dreadfully old, in fact. I come here to read about new things, don't you?




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