Could Ride-Hailing Be Nashville's Solution For Public Transit?

Oct 5, 2016

The ride-hailing company Lyft announced Wednesday its new downtown office will employ 500 people by the end of the year, more than it originally projected.

But besides an economic boost, Nashville officials think Lyft’s presence could lead to improvements in the city’s limited public transit system.

Anyone who has tried to get around in Nashville without a car knows the city’s public transit system is hardly seamless. But what if ride-hailing could help?

“What is really exciting about the opportunity to partner with Lyft is the connections, what I call 'between the lines,'" says Steve Bland, the CEO of the Metro Transit Authority. What he means by 'between the lines,' is the geographic gaps separating the city’s various modes of mass transit — gaps that can leave riders stranded or far from their destination.

“In our minds it is not about one solution: bus, rail, ride-share, taxi, private car. It’s putting together the right mix of all the above,” Bland says.

The chance to work with Lyft and other ride-hailing companies, he says, means blurring the line between public and private transit.

“And the technology, which is what Lyft is pioneering, which is technology associated with transportation, could really put Nashville in the forefront of what future mobility looks like.”

Imagine a seamless system where your bus ticket includes a Lyft ride, stepping into a car as soon as your city bus drops you off. MTA says it’s in talks with Lyft to cook up such a plan.

Another idea is a new universal fare system that allows riders to pay for multiple modes of transport on a single platform like an app. Bland says the city has already put aside funds for this project in the current budget.