Lyft tests mobility as a service across major U.S. cities

By Eric Sundquist

The move toward “mobility as a service” (MaaS) took a step forward last week when Lyft expanded a pilot program, for people who agree not to drive a private car, to dozens of cities.

The “Ditch Your Car Challenge” program, initially offered just in Chicago but now in 35 additional cities, offers to provide credits for Lyft, transit, bike share, scooter share, and car share modes. The modes vary by city, but the credits are substantial in all of them—$751 for a month in Denver, for example. Fifty to 100 participants will be selected in each city.

MaaS is not new for about 9 percent of Americans, who already live without cars, or millions more who do have at least one car in their households but use transit, TNC, and other non-private modes extensively. And in its current state, the TNC industry has raised concerns that it is increasing car use by cannibalizing non-auto modes or inducing new trips.

But in the longer run, the hope is that MaaS can expand the number of no- and low-car households and move them to multimodal pay-as-you-go services, reducing single-occupancy-vehicle demand. Such a future is key to managing the use of automated vehicles.

So the Lyft program bears watching. Lyft President John Zimmer told the Verge that the company found eager participants in Chicago, spurring the expansion. He compared the reaction to that of TNCs during their first years. “We all know how fast this industry has grown. I think what we’re seeing is early signs similar to that where there’s a lot of enthusiasm to ditch your car.”

Eric Sundquist is Director of SSTI.