by Sam Hieb
In the latest response to declining ridership, the Charlotte Area Transit System is pitching what it believes to be a novel idea– discounted Lyft rides to and from light rail stations:
Lyft riders starting or ending their trips at the Parkwood Station or JW Clay Boulevard/UNC Charlotte Station are eligible for $4 discounts, covering most of the cost of a ride within a specified area. From its launch in April through July, the program was used for 99 trips, CATS officials said.
It’s the latest example of how transit agencies, struggling against falling ridership, are seeking to partner with new, tech-driven companies that many advocates fear are siphoning riders away from buses and trains with the promise of greater convenience. In addition to ride-hailing companies that didn’t exist a few years ago, there are now thousands of dockless bikes and hundreds of electric scooters from companies such as Lime and Bird scattered around Charlotte light-rail stations and neighborhoods like South End.
According to the Uptown Paper of Record, Charlotte “hasn’t endured the high-profile transit meltdown enveloping cities like New York and Washington, D.C.” where “the subway and Metro system are suffering massive ridership losses and major service disruptions, largely as a result of putting off maintenance for years.” True, but you’d think that would be a red flag as CATS continues to double down by proposing additional lines even as the competition from ride-sharing services heats up.