Digital disruption backs up mass transit
Digital disruption backs up mass transit

Digital disruption backs up mass transit

A steep decline in mass transit ridership from emerging technologies and underinvestment encourages civic leaders to reshape mobility.

Time is money in relation to mass transit. Overall ridership is down 5 percent over the last decade with bus ridership stumbling by 15 percent. This trend stems from the convenience of a private car, the emergence of new technologies, and the underinvestment in mass transit bus fleets. In order to stay relevant and continue to serve consumers with low-cost and convenient options, cities will need to leverage these new technologies and embrace the sharing economy to create mass mobility for commuters. 

Balancing price with convenience

Ride-hailing and ride-sharing services, most notably Uber and Lyft, continue to disrupt the commuter landscape, and these services are still on the rise. From one million users in 2011 to 10 million users in 2017, car sharing is expected to increase to 36 million users by 2025. Already these services have added 5.7 billion vehicle miles in nine major urban areas over the last six years. 

Perhaps even more alluring to consumers, a ride-share service like Uber is more convenient than bus transportation and on par with private car. When studying the commuting patterns of three cities—Denver, Houston and San Diego—KPMG found that a four- or five-mile commute by bus could take up to an hour while driving a private car or using a ride-share service took just ten minutes. 

Though bus transit remains the cheapest option, rideshare is considerably less than a private car. Ride-share services offers private, door-to-door rides, which are available on-demand within minutes and without parking, insurance, gas, maintenance, and other fees associated with driving. Depending on the city, traveling by car ranged from $10-35, by rideshare from $7-18 and by bus from $1.25-2.60. 

Sharing a seat on the (micro) bus

For the low-cost travelers, the bus remains the only option, so civic leaders must balance the continued need for bus transit with the convenience rideshare and private car consumers enjoy. This requires cities to evolve their transportation infrastructure and embrace a demand-orientated transportation system. One solution being tested in urban centers around the world is microtransit, which offers dynamic routing and the scheduling of mini or shuttle buses that can be summoned from the consumer’s phone. Most promising was the mircotransit’s cost, which rivaled the price of bus service in Denver, was cheaper in Houston, and only 15 percent higher in San Diego. 

Find out what other challenges mass transit faces and how mass mobility may not only unclog congested roads and improve safety but also keep mass transit relevant in "Accelerating mobility."