Uber vs. Lyft Round 2: The Bikeshare Showdown

Uber and Lyft are, not surprisingly, fighting for marketshare—and arguably wanting a monopoly—in San Francisco around bikesharing. (Check out Streetsblog for the full story.) While some of the fight has to do with which agency—San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) or Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC)—has authority to regulate micromobility, the discussion points to two big issues to consider.

First, what is the role of municipal governments in helping—even sheltering—a company to get it off the ground, and build momentum and public acceptance of a new mode (one presumably that has added community benefits in terms of physical activity and reduced emissions).  It is critical for cities to understand the business model of these companies enough to know how much help they truly need and not give away too much or create a non-competitive environment that will limit things long-term.  Not an easy task in a quickly shifting world.

Secondly, the ideal scenario, eventually, is to get both companies on the same Mobility as a Serivce (MaaS) platform. It is easy to imagine that neither wants this and would instead want to dominate marketshare, but, from the article, there is already a sense that one company is having trouble providing all the needed bicycles for the city.

A big question here is what is the business model for transportation service providers vs. MaaS platform providers. This is still unclear. Should one just be a supplier for the other? And would that be of vehicles or of clients? Where is there money to be made and what are the additional opportunities with this? (E.g., for bringing customers to other services, for instance.) And what benefits or pitfalls exist if the transportation service provider and MaaS platform provider are the same company (as the walled gardens both Uber and Lyft are trying to build around their platforms)?

All of this points to the absolute need for cities to have a fairly high understanding of how new mobility companies work and where they see a long-term business case.

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