LA Looks to Rideshare to Build the Future of Public Transit - Wired

Back in ye olden times, beckoning a ride with a phone tap was for the 1-ish percent. Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick says he launched his world-shaking app back in 2009 so he could look über-rich and powerful. "We just wanted to push a button and get a ride, and we wanted to get a classy ride,” he later told Business Insider. "We wanted to be baller in San Francisco.”

Now, the sort of on-demand transit Uber, Lyft, and other ride-hailing companies have made so popular might finally make it to the masses—maybe even to those without smartphones or bank accounts. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority just announced it’s looking for a friend to help it build an on-demand transit program, which would supplement the services the agency already runs.

LA Metro calls it “microtransit,” something in between a big bus that follows a rigid route and a personal ride that takes you door to door. And by “friend”, of course, we mean a private company. Uber, maybe, or Lyft, or van services such as Ford-owned Chariot or New York-based Via. On Monday, the agency that serves 1.3 million daily riders issued a request for proposals, asking anyone interested to plan, design, implement, and eventually evaluate a microtransit pilot project.

Metro kept its demands vague in the interest of sparking creative solutions, but it does have a sense of the sort of experimental service it would like to roll out in 2018: You'd use a smartphone app or phone call to beckon a ride from a smaller vehicle, something between a sedan and a full-size bus, which you would share with other riders. That vehicle would run on the same kind of platform you’ll find on UberPOOL, or Lyft Line, dynamically creating routes based on where customers are and where they want to go. You might have to walk a block or two to an assigned pickup and drop-off point (a “virtual bus stop”), but the ride should come with a free transfer if your next move is a bus or train ride. You'd pay a subsidized, fixed-rate fee that’s competitive with today’s ride-sharing services, and would be able to take these vehicles wherever you want within the pilot's service area.

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