At a recent SPUR meeting, an audience member asked why cities continue to invest billions in long-term projects, such as the Central Subway, when ride-hail services such as Juno, Lyft, and Uber Pool have rendered urban rail more or less obsolete. This sentiment is reflected in a recent piece in the Atlantic by former Los Angeles Times writer Alana Semuels, entitled: “The End of Public Transit?” She wrote about her experience riding Chariot instead of Muni:
Why should anyone use public services if the private sector can provide the same service more efficiently? On an individual level, after all, the private bus was much more pleasant and not much more expensive. On the government level, privatization could save money. Privatizing public bus services could save $5.7 billion a year, according to a paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research in March.
The piece brings up some interesting thoughts, which have been discussed in Streetsblog as well. It’s worth a read–certainly, transit agencies such as BART and SFMTA should be, and are, discussing collaboration with private transportation providers.