A short list of "all the bad things" about Uber and Lyft

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/02/11/uber-for-bezzles.html


I have said that this is precisely why transit / bus / trolley should be 100% subsidized.
$2.25 [San Diego] for a shitty twice as long trip or $5.00 for door to door service?


I don’t want to victim-blame, but public transport in most places that Uber/Lyft thrive could be a lot better. The raw amount of money spent on public transport A) does not have a direct relationship with how good it is, and 2) is usually way less than it needs to be.

I say this as a person that’s used Uber exactly once, and it was because my boss took us to a meeting using one. I didn’t say anything because I was new, but also it meant the journey took 15 minutes instead of 45.

However, everything will change in 10-15 years when self-driving cars hit. So, this is a rare problem that’s best solved by ignoring it and actually putting the time into building a public transport system as good as you possibly can. (After all, I’d actually use public transport if my car drove me to the nearest station then drove itself home.)


I’ve never used Uber or Lyft, and have only ridden in taxis on the few occasions when I’ve traveled by air to places where my car won’t go. I don’t travel a lot.

While I don’t want to defend either of these companies, I can see the one thing they have going for them that public transportation lacks; convenience.

Given the choice between calling a car service that comes to your house, and walking to and sitting on a bus bench outside in whatever weather might be happening and hope the bus is running on time – and the means to afford the former – I would go with the former.

But it’s crazy to expect a bus to show up at your house, run you to the grocery store, and back. Unrealistic.

I would also argue that the people using these service would be on the road in their own vehicles if the services weren’t around, rather than waiting for a bus. Or they would call a taxi. Or ask a friend for a lift. Which is still another car on the road.

Taking the bus, especially in my city where they’ve been scaling back routes, stops, and service times for years, seems like the choice of last resort. And it’s been that way for a long, long time.


Truth is, the prices are really cheap and while it may be far more cost effective for me to get to the airport via public transport, it takes twice as long. So basically we are seeing some transportation arbitrage. If they increased prices, which I think they should, the drivers are not very well compensated, we might see more reasonable behavior.


We are a rich society that is willing to pay for convenience. Isnt that the promise of tech in the first place?

And it shows that humans think about themselves first, which is normal. We are hesitant to give up our luxuries for a nebulous “common good” like taking transit.


And a big part of why that’s the case is because middle and upper class people don’t use it, and thus don’t advocate/vote for it, the way they should. (And what poor people want/need is given disproportionately little attention in legislation, funding or infrastructure planning.)

Self-driving cars will make the problem much worse. For one, automobiles will increasingly be a service provided (maybe not by Uber, but by GM itself running an equivalent service*) rather than things one owns. There were be many fewer parked cars - they’ll be moving, instead (even if they have nowhere to go), so streets will be even more crowded.
As you say, the solution is building more and better public transportation infrastructure - it’ll be even more vitally necessary in coming years.

*When you can count on GM working, yet again, to destroy public transportation in the US.

Right now, sure. With “smart” public transport? Maybe not. A self-driving shuttle that alters its route based on demand such that it picks you up at least very near your house and delivers you next to the shop (and back)? (And picks people up along the way.) Doable. That’s a lot more convenient than a fixed-route bus that eventually gets near where you want to go (maybe), but drives all over the place (and maybe makes you change buses a few times) before that.


according to the article, that’s not the issue.

it said high-income people are self-selecting ride “sharing”; someone in the comments called it “white flight.” so lower prices wouldn’t actually help, might even hurt. because it’s (arguably) status and an ability to avoid dealing with “those people” that causes people to use the services; not price.

my biggest problem with transit in most cities is frequency. i hate standing around waiting for the bus. ( i almost wonder what would happen if we replaced buses with fixed uber routes. )


I’ve sent so many city busses
completely empty
looping around the city
Instead of using the half-sized
busses, which would be far more practical,
these huge (some are “green”) primarily
empty tanks criss-cross the city
all day long
Getting stuck behind one is a real drag.
The routes need to be more proficient, the
smaller busses need to be deployed
and fares adjusted accordingly.
If there was steady, regular ridership
that’s one thing . … during peak hours
But, especially during the day, ridership is
sporadic and limited.
There’s a fear of some being “left off of the bus”
(which can happen to anyone for various reasons), so they keep running…
and running… and…running.


I feel these two things are basically the same thing. Unless the self-driving shuttle only stops for people along the route that it devises who are going to my destination, it will still take a meandering path to collect enough riders to make it cost effective for the amount of fuel it burns, and its maintenance.

The one thing it would save is the cost of a driver, assuming a spare human driver doesn’t need to be on board in case the robo-brain loses its shit.

Add to that the return trip; if everyone it picks up on your trip aren’t ready to go back around the time you are, what would that solution look like?

You also say a shuttle, instead of a bus. That tells me it would be smaller. It would still have to be large enough to handle cargo that could need to be transported, like groceries, a tuba, whatever.

And “very near” may not be as near as “outside your door”, which then still calls into question where it’ll be, what the weather will be like, how long it’ll take you to walk there, how far you’ll have to walk back with those groceries or that tuba depending on where it decides your route ends on the return trip.

To be clear, I do not have solutions for this. My only thought, apart from hoping/wishing for a tech based solution, is improved, affordable public transportation, and a steep road tax for solo occupant vehicles over the size of a Smart car to disincentivize people from driving alone. But for that to work, the transport system would have to be both top notch and well maintained (perhaps at first by that road tax). As for a tech based solution… teleportation? Or massive adoption of telecommuting for jobs that don’t require you to be physically at a location to do your work, and a VR option if you need to be at meetings?

Hell, I sucked at Transportation Tycoon, but I found it very fascinating.

Another thing on the rise that I feel like is going to have unforeseen consequences are the Uber-style food delivery services, like GrubHub. All of a sudden, a restaurant that is used to occupancy limits that keep them from being overwhelmed – along with single family to-go orders – are now having that limit lifted and groups of orders coming in in clumps.

I was in Red Robin last Thursday night picking up a to-go order on my way home, and the place was insane. Two GrubHub drivers in front of me, and another one behind me. And the kitchen was a madhouse.


Uber/Lyft aren’t going to be around much longer.

The whole rideshare industry is basically: get wall street money to fund a “transportation” business that doesn’t turn a profit now but promises to corner the market with cheap self driving cars, and keeps prices for consumers artificially low by screwing their workers.

They’re bubble’s gonna burst. Self driving cars seem always 10-20 years off and if they ever become a reality, it’s Google/GM, etc, not Uber/Lyft who will roll them out. Cities are banning Uber/Lyft and workers are organizing, the “high cost of low prices” as they say, is starting to take its toll. Uber/Lyft is a big time money loser. Once their prices go up, they’re gonna lose a lot of riders, the tech funding will dry up, and it’s over.


I despise Uber/Lift and take Muni every day in SF but I can see why people are not taking public transportation during rush hour. The 38/R and the light rail trains during rush hour are literally as full as those Japanese trains where they push people inside.


Yeah. Obviously this works best for destinations where a lot of people want to be there at the same time (i.e. public transportation hubs during commute hours), it could also work for less-traveled destinations using smaller vehicles and scheduled trips (e.g. schedule a window during which time you want to make your trip and it gives you a specific time). It wouldn’t (couldn’t) be as convenient as being driven by a private chauffeur at will, but it could be a lot more convenient than existing public transportation.


Small vehicles that carry a minimum of passengers. Hail via an app, and you have basically re-invented Uber…


Good points. Or for sporting events.


I drive both. Now about a month.its gonna boil down to supply and demand versus $$. We have buses. Lite rail and a train running to the airport. I take riders to and from the airport. Also lots of local runs. Others do the bar scene. People want to go the quickest cheapest way. Time will tell

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Self-driving cars will make the problem much worse. For one, automobiles will increasingly be a service provided (maybe not by Uber, but by GM itself running an equivalent service*) rather than things one owns. There were be many fewer parked cars - they’ll be moving, instead (even if they have nowhere to go), so streets will be even more crowded.
As you say, the solution is building more and better public transportation infrastructure - it’ll be even more vitally necessary in coming years.
*When you can count on GM working, yet again, to destroy public transportation in the US.

The way the US can reduce reliance on fossil fuels is to develop public transit. If you look at the few American cities where it’s well developed, you can easily see the benefits. If more people use public transit, more people will want to use it.
Europe has extremely well developed public transit. Business men and women don’t see a stigma in riding in a fast, clean and reasonably comfortable shared conveyance to be demeaning or beneath their station.
Canadian cities work hard on developing their transit systems and people clamor for more. In Vancouver BC, the Canada Line heavy rail system was installed in time for the 2010 Olympics and exceeded its 3-year ridership target in less than half of that time. There are discussions for more subway lines because people understand that buying, fueling, servicing and insuring cars for individuals is not cost and time effective.


Mass transit needs to upgrade its own systems, as They cannot be counted on during snow and ice and especially at high ridership times in the morning and afternoon. Flashback to 5 pm last Friday in Boston! The forever embattled MBTA completely shut down and riders were left stranded. I believe part of this is a flawed analysis, and do you know what came to the rescue when that happened? You got it; all of the ride sharing companies that were in place.
Remember there are many sides to many stories but I believe ride share has allowed for a lot more people to get around without the use of their cars. The feedback I get from people who are using the ride share platform are that the convenience far outweighs having to wait for trains or busses or taxis and then hoping that everything works out to the end of the trip.

honestly, i dont really get why train packing – ridiculous as it is – is any better than traffic jams like this:

at least the train ride is relatively brief


In a big city like Chicago, you take the El to the airport near rush hour because it is faster and way cheaper. Say 40 min from downtown for a couple bucks vs $30+ in an Uber that would take 90 min.

If traffic is light, then many would choose the Uber because it would take only 20 min, despite the higher cost. People’s time is worth money to them and it’s a different calculation for each person.