This piece very much confirms my thesis: transportation choices will be consolidated (and restricted) by ‘Transportation Service Providers”, in the hope that one or a few will emerge dominant, following the precedent of Telecommunication Service Providers like Telus, AT&T and eventually something Amazon-like. 

From Fast Company:

By David Zipper, a fellow at the German Marshall Fund

If you’re not a techie, you may not have come across the term “walled garden” before. But it’s a critical concept these days in technology business strategy–and it has the potential to fundamentally change the ways we travel throughout cities.

For the first time, the walled garden strategy is now being applied to urban transportation, with ride-hail giants Uber and Lyft racing to add new mobility modes to their apps.

In 2018, Uber has announced partnerships or acquisitions related to car sharing (Getaround), e-bike sharing (Jump), e-scooter share (Lime), and public transportation (Masabi). For its part, Lyft acquired public bike share operator Motivate, launched its own e-scooter share service, and has started building new integrations with public transportation into its app. The stakes are high; both companies–as well as China’s Didi Chuxing–want to evolve into walled gardens by providing trip planning and ticketing for any urban trip a commuter might desire. …

Many U.S. transit agencies offer apps with trip planning and ticketing functionality, but no transit app allows users to also book a trip on ride hail. It’s doubtful that Uber or Lyft would ever allow that, since they want to own the customer relationship. They would much prefer to incorporate transit ticketing within the walled gardens of an Uber or Lyft app—and they are rapidly moving in that direction (see the partnerships mentioned earlier).

If public transportation becomes one of many services available within the Uber or Lyft app, that raises a number of thorny questions. Will disintermediated public transportation agencies receive data about when and why riders purchased tickets, which can then allow them to plan better service? Will they have to pay a commission when a rider books a ticket through an Uber or Lyft app, which would reduce their already declining operating revenues?

And perhaps most importantly, will Uber or Lyft design their apps to nudge people away from public transportation and toward their ride-hail service? …

Taking a step back, do cities want mobility companies to compete on the basis of the exclusive services only available within their walled garden? What if instead all mobility options were available on trip planning and ticketing platforms, allowing a commuter to consider her options and book any service she likes? Companies like Uber or Lyft could still build services like bike share and e-scooters into their apps, but they would compete based on the user interface and core quality of their service—not the extent to which they lock particular brands or modes inside their walled garden. …

In contrast to the broad platforms envisioned by MaaS’s boosters, Uber and Lyft want to use walled gardens to become their own platforms. That may be great for them, but it could lead to a worse customer experience (i.e., more walled gardens, each with limited mobility options, rather than accessing all services at once).

Is there an alternative to the emergence of urban mobility walled gardens? Yes. Governments could require that all mobility providers make their trip planning and ticketing data available for public integration (this is a strategy that Finland is starting to test). Any company can then establish a platform that brings together multiple modes into an app or subscription service. …

Do we want urban mobility companies to compete on the basis of the quality of their service, or is it okay for them to strategically lock certain services inside (or outside) their mobility platforms?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *