Uber Launches A Statewide Rideshare Campaign

The two rideshare companies in operating in Pennsylvania, Uber and Lyft have been in the headlines lately after the Pennsylvania Utilities Commission (PUC) issued a cease and desist order to stop operating in Allegheny County. And while that issue seems to be drawing to a conclusion, Uber has mobilized their loyal users to help convince the PUC to allow rideshare services to operate throughout the state.

The first thing to know about ridesharing is that it’s not really ride sharing (more on that below). You are simply requesting a ride or e-hailing with a smart phone app. One advantage of using an app is obvious, there is no need to call, but additionally you learn of the drivers identity and license plate. You also can call them with a one push of a button, get a fare estimate and know when he or she is expected to arrive.

But it also is a boon for the driver as well. Since the customer has already registered their name, contact information, credit card number and added an optional photo. This makes the random bad guy pickup far less likely and has made these “taxi” jobs more appealing to job seekers.

Unlike Lyft, Uber has premium levels of service which has allowed them to penetrate markets before going head to head with taxis. Uber’s Black Car and SUV services use PUC certified limousine drivers with fares at about double of its basic level of Uber X. Uber X in fact was created to compete with Lyft and the other startup companies such as SideCar.

In Philadelphia the Taxi and Limousine Commission has not permitted Uber X or SideCar to operate in the City.  But Uber Black Car and Uber SUV have acquired a large following anyway. Oddly enough Uber X does operate in Bucks, Montgomery, Delaware and Chester Counties, which adds to the confusion of the PUC’s actions. One dynamic that has not been studied yet is ridesharing’s impact on small town taxi companies. Uber’s coverage area in Suburban Philadelphia would offer a great test case to observe the effect.

Uber Philadelphia Service ARea

Uber’s service area goes well beyond the Philadelphia City limits.

Two issues that rideshare companies have failed to address are carrying bicycles and people with disabilities. Uber has shown some responsiveness to customer requests such as providing a car seat and wifi. It seems that its easy enough to add bike racks (Uber will be adding bike racks to select Seattle UberX vehicles in the fall). Perhaps it is more of a challenge to add accessible vehicles to the fleet, but doing so could solve both problems and expand the customer base.

True real time ride sharing where a car or a van picks up more than one rider to reach their destinations is not far behind. Last week Uber and Lyft simultaneously launched experimental real time car pool services in San Francisco with the fare per passenger running at approximately half the cost of a typical ride. If successful this could affect the way some choice riders who are dissatisfied with driving alone or taking public transportation get around. Public transportation providers should pay attention as this technology could greatly help paratransit services which often require a phone call 24 hours advance to request a ride on limited days. If transit providers are looking for an existing model to emulate they should check out Helsinki’s Kutsuplus on demand transit service.

All the press in Pittsburgh has raised the awareness of real time ridesharing throughout the state. The pushback from the various taxi companies has added to media circus and although we don’t get our information from the comments section, its clear that the taxi companies have a lot of unattended public relations problems that have to be addressed ASAP. Oddly enough a press release from Lyft seems to suggest that rideshare companies may be deploying similar tactics that the taxi companies are notorious for using against one another. Which if true would imply that the “geniuses” behind ride sharing may not be so smart after all. Regardless as to what the ride sharing landscape looks like in 5 years, bringing this transportation choice to the rest of Pennsylvania seems like a worthwhile endeavor.

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St. Lukes Wants To Get Your “Tail On The Trail”

“Get off the couch and get active” that’s the message that St. Lukes University Health Systems has for Lehigh Valley, Upper Perkiomen, Pocono and Anthracite Region residents. And they are using the nearby 165 mile D&L Trail to help members of the community achieve their personal fitness goals.

Get Your Trail On The Trail

This year St. Lukes is partnering with the D&L Heritage Corridor for its 165 mile challenge. The 165 Mile Challenge is a challenge to log 165 miles of biking, walking or running over 6 months (May to October 2014). The goal is to connect people to the outstanding opportunities along the D&L Trail while increasing health awareness and improving the health status of the community. The challenge is supported by several fitness events on the trail but participants can choose to walk, bike and run anywhere and anytime they please.

 

 

Pennsylvania ranks in the lower half of many health indicator categories, including Obesity (29th), Diabetes (30th) and Physical Inactivity (30th). Reaching out to our health networks to is effective ways to promote active lifestyles to populations that need it the most.

You can sign up for the program here and get frequent updates on Facebook

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What Will Pittsburgh’s Penn Ave Protected Bike Lanes Look Like?

Last week Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto held a press conference in Schenley Park announcing the details of the City’s first protected bike lanes. At the conference the Mayor showed rendering of the largest of the three proposed bike lanes on Schenley Drive through the park.

Apparently the plans for the downtown bike lanes on Penn Ave are not ready for roll out yet. So we took the liberty of visualizing them using Street Mix. Based on the details of an earlier article the two way protected bike lane will replace the single eastbound lane and not affect westbound traffic.

A rendering of what the Penn Ave bike lane may look like.

A Street Mix rendering of what Penn Ave may look like. Westbound traffic configuration is not expected to change with the outside vehicle lane becoming a parking lane outside of peak hour traffic times.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Penn Ave looking east  - Google Street View

Penn Ave looking east – Google Street View

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Can Buses And Trains Work Together As A Statewide Network?

Over the years bus travel has declined in Pennsylvania as routes have slowly fallen by the wayside. Mid size towns such as Gettysburg, Chambersburg and Franklin have lost their intercity bus stops.

The lack of amenities and information for bus passengers, poor coordination with Amtrak and the difficulty of buying a bus ticket online all contribute to the stigma and unpopularity of bus travel in most of Pennsylvania. Additionally many rural bus stops are unmarked and thus lightly used, its not unheard of for a once a day bus to pass by without stopping for flagging customers.

Despite these setbacks bus travel can still get you to far more places than air travel for a fraction of the price. A survey of the 14 commercial serviced airports in Pennsylvania on Kayak shows a typical day before price for a one way ticket from Philadelphia to be about $500, compare that to $68 for a Philadelphia to Erie Greyhound Bus Ticket. The travel time to some smaller airports such as Franklin can take from 7 to 12 hours.

For a few major cities and college communities, bus service is alive and well. Megabus for example allows you to buy a Philadelphia to Pittsburgh ticket well in advance for as low as $13. Bolt Bus serves Philadelphia and competes with Amtrak and Megabus for the Northeast Corridor while the Chinatown bus companies Top Bus and Great Wall serve State College and York from New York City. These companies, which emphasize internet ticketing and express service have done quite well, even if some of their stops leave you off on the edge of town.

Some gaps in the intercity network have been filled by local transit agencies, offering high end commuter bus service during the weekday peak hours. These buses often include real time location, wifi access, outlets, cup holders, bike racks and high back seats.

Perhaps the key for restoring routine bus travel in Pennsylvania lies in the ability for transportation providers to modernize business practices. Could rural shared ride services learn something from Uber? PENNDOT also has a role here. California has managed to coordinate bus services with Amtrak offering timed connections and thru ticketing. Some of these connections already exist, for example from the Harrisburg Transportation Center local and intercity buses serve State College, Williamsport, Lebanon, Hershey Park, Gettysburg and York but there is no single online resource available to book these trips.

PA Transit Map

There are many ways to get around PA. View this as an interactive map.

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