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The news that New York City is placing a moratorium on new ridehailing vehicles calls attention to one of the unintended consequences of transport network company (TNC) services. In many cities like New York, they have made traffic and pollution worse.

“This action will stop the influx of cars contributing to the congestion grinding our streets to a halt,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement.

 

The New York Taxi Commission reports that the number of ridehailing vehicles on city streets has ballooned from 12,000 to more than 80,000 since 2015. Meanwhile, department of transportation figures show that public transit utilization is down in the city, which suggests that people are opting to use TNC services in place of public transit.

 

What’s really needed is coordination between public transit and ridehailing services. A study of TNC users by University of California at Davis researchers found that 48–61 percent of TNC rides are booked by people who otherwise would use public transit.

 

Some communities are starting to take notice. One of the largest barriers to public transit use is the “last-mile” convenience, or lack thereof. Getting from transit hubs to one’s home or office is often too time-consuming or inconvenient, which forces many commuters to drive. Synching ridehailing services, and sharing rides, has the potential to boost public transit ridership and keep more cars off of the street.

 

They’re trying it in Munich, where the city is working with micro-transit services to integrate shared vans as a last-mile option that can be viewed and booked with the same app travelers use for buses and trains. The vehicles hold six passengers and the app matches riders with common destinations.

 

In the United States, Lyft is partnering with municipal transit agencies in some cities to make public transit schedules visible on the Lyft mobile app. The goal is to encourage people to use the ridehailing service to travel to and from stations. At the same time, the TNC is looking to reduce wait times and improve travel times for its shared ride service (Lyft Line) to make pooled rides more convenient.

 

Can it work? In Helsinki, Finland, the Whim app is a one-stop mobile app that can be used to book door-to-door trips using ridehailing, carsharing, bike sharing and public transit. The app has resulted in a 50 percent reduction in the use of private autos, and a 25 percent increase in the use of public transit, according to parent company MaaS global.

 

The requirements for the success of public transit and TNC collaboration is easy to describe but more difficult to implement. First, the services need to be connected on the back end. The limitations of Lyft’s experiments, for example, are that travelers can view public transit schedules, but they can’t book rides as they can in Munich and Helsinki. Second, the TNC rides must be efficiently pooled. The ability to get multiple passengers into a vehicle for first and last-mile transit, and to guarantee specified wait times and travel times requires sophisticated matching algorithms that take many factors into consideration.

 

The Bestmile Mobility Services Platform was built to make it easy for public and private transit operators to offer integrated services by providing a complete, end-to-end solution that connects operators, vehicles, drivers, and travelers with the necessary mobile apps, back-end integration, and sophisticated matching algorithms already built into the software. Ridehailing operators can sync with public transit schedules via a multi-modal integration API, and the matching algorithm can be used to pool shared rides. The ability to guarantee performance requirements like wait times and vehicle capacity management are already in place.

 

It will also be important for TNCs across the board to work with municipal officials to avoid the problems caused in New York. Sending too many vehicles to the same neighborhoods is bad for everyone, including the TNC drivers trying to earn their livings. Keeping supply and demand in check requires some kind of collaboration with all providers and oversight by a platform like Bestmile’s that can dynamically dispatch vehicles where and when they are needed.

 

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