Future of Transportation: Lyft's New Shuttle Service Sounds Just Like a City Bus

Lyft Shuttle
Lyft Shuttle allows users to "Walk to stop. Hop in. Hop out. Walk to destination." Lyft

On June 6, Stefan Heck posted a joke about Silicon Valley's self-absorbed mission to disrupt the world, even where it may not need disrupting.

Heck may have been referring to the Lyft Shuttle, which was unveiled earlier this year and is undergoing beta testing in San Francisco and Chicago. The way the service is broken down on the ride-sharing app's website reads almost like a parody of the Silicon Valley thinking to which Heck's tweet refers.

Related: GM to test thousands of self-driving cars for Lyft in 2018

"Walk to stop. Hop in. Hop out. Walk to destination," the site explains, before providing a more detailed breakdown of how users can "find their route," then "walk to your pickup stop," then "ride along the designated route" and, finally, "walk to your destination."

On Monday, Lifehacker reviewed Lyft Shuttle. Here's how the service is described:

I take Lyft or Lyft Line a couple times a week, usually because I’m traveling with other people and it’s the same or cheaper (and much, much cleaner, faster, and more pleasant) than taking public transportation. But Lyfts can add up fast and Lyft Line, while less expensive, can take you out of your way and make your travel time much longer.

Lyft Shuttle addresses both those issues by having you walk to a nearby pick up spot, get in a shared car that follows a pre-designated route, and drops you (and everyone else) off at the same stop. So, basically, you share a ride with other people (most of the time) so your ride price is lower, but you know exactly how long the ride will take because you’re on a pre-designated route.

Drawbacks: the shuttle service is only available during commute hours and you’re only picked up and dropped off in certain spots. That said, the routes currently offered (shown in the map below) go to most neighborhoods that I visit and I live in downtown San Francisco so there are plenty of stops near me. If you have a similar situation if and when Lyft Shuttle comes to your city, this is a convenient—and more affordable—alternative.

The review was positive, and did not acknowledge the similarities to a certain publicly funded transportation service that was not invented by Lyft (although Lifehacker's sister site, Jalopnik, did so later on Monday).

Twitter also took note of Lyft's groundbreaking new innovation.

Heather Yamada-Hosley, who reviewed the service for Lifehacker, writes in the comments to her post about how public transportation in San Francisco is "dirty, slow, crowded, and increasingly dangerous," making Lyft Shuttle a valuable resource. Others wrote that they live in areas with no accessible public transportation lines, or in places where they do not have to walk as far to get to or from a Lyft Shuttle as they would to a bus or train stop. 

Some have accused these Lyft Shuttle defenders as simply justifying various degrees of revulsion to the poor. The reality is probably somewhere in between. 

Matthew Yglesias‏'s first tweet sums up the issue: The Lyft Shuttle isn't a bad idea, but it also isn't anything new. Though it may be convenient for some people living in certain cities, privatizing a public service that has been in place for years isn't "innovative" or "disruptive" or "groundbreaking" so much as it is a way for Lyft to make money and expand its influence.