The emergence of rideshare apps such as Uber and Lyft, otherwise known as Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) have dramatically shifted the transportation sector. For decades, public transit existed in silos. Rather than experiment, transit authorities focused on building more bus lanes, adding light rail, or more trains, expanding existing structures. Public transit ridership had been gradually decreasing prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, but with the onset of the pandemic, ridership dropped sharply.
Public transit authorities have been developing programs working with TNCs in areas with sparse transportation. So far, pilot programs integrating public agencies with TNCs have taken place in smaller cities, and in the future, integration could be a permanent part of large city infrastructure. TNCs also provide food and package delivery services, a business model that is likely to stay in a post-Covid world.
In the next 18 months, and as the pandemic winds down, it is likely that curbside cafes will remain in place, and transit agencies need thoughtful safety and congestion plans. Public transportation use may never get back to pre-pandemic levels, with more people opting to use private vehicles. Uber and Lyft may become less affordable, and this has concerning implications for the nightlife economy. Curb management and nightlife plans can manage safety risks.
Matt Daus is a transportation lawyer and university instructor with decades of experience in government. He worked for the New York City government for 20 years, serving as the commissioner and chairman of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission. He instructs graduate-level courses and is the Transportation Technology Chair at City University of New York. He is currently volunteer president of International Association of Transportation Regulators (IATR). Daus is Chair of the Transportation Practice Group at Windels Marx law firm, where he practices transportation law.