Uber gave its Denver-area users easy access to transit info and tickets, and now more are using RTD
The idea behind Uber’s experiment was simple: Add real-time RTD bus and train information to the ride-sharing app — along with ticket purchases — and its users would be more likely to incorporate public transit into their journeys.
The first several weeks have proven that theory right, the company said Tuesday. Denver was the first of Uber’s markets to integrate transit schedules into its app, starting in January, and the company says the number of rides that start or stop at a transit station has grown nearly 12%.
Since Uber began offering the option to purchase tickets for Regional Transportation District services in its app in May, more than 1,200 have been sold, RTD and Uber said.
RTD ticket purchases increased rapidly each week, and on June 25 Uber made the ticket-buying function available to all Denver users.
Sales exceeded 200 tickets that week, showing promise — at least in the very early offing — for a tie-in portrayed as helping to solve the “first-mile/last-mile” problem for transit riders: How they bridge the gap between a train or a bus and their home, workplace or another destination.
To some critics of Uber, such a move might be an unexpected evolution for a company that at times has been blunt about considering public transportation to be among its competition — another potential hurdle to its growth strategy.
But the company also long has nodded to ride-sharing’s potential to augment transit. Denver is now a test case that’s being used by the ride-sharing giant as it rolls out similar transit-integration features to other cities in the U.S. and Europe, said David Reich, Uber’s head of transit.
“Our goals are about putting riders first, and this is what our actions are showing by including transit in the Uber app,” he said during a morning press event, standing on Union Station’s commuter rail platform beside an out-of-service train wrapped with an Uber promotion. “We haven’t just stopped in Denver. We’ve added London, we’ve added Boston, and there will be more and more cities to come. We’ve also partnered in other ways (with transit systems).”
About a quarter of tickets sold through Uber’s app in Denver were bought by repeat purchasers, according to a joint news release from Uber, RTD and Masabi, which handles RTD’s mobile ticketing.
The competing Lyft ride-sharing app introduced a “Nearby public transit” feature in March, but so far it doesn’t offer users a ticket-purchase option.
Dave Genova, RTD’s CEO and general manager, said RTD has contributed staff time but no money for the Uber partnership.
“The data we’re seeing from the launch of Uber Transit affirms that people appreciate choices, and that the future of mobility lies in providers working together to deliver on public expectations,” he said, expressing hope the partnership would expose more non-riders to transit. “Twelve hundred transit tickets sold within the Uber app represents 1,200 decisions actively made to take transit, after considering all options available.”
By JON MURRAY