Ride sharing doesn't have to replace other forms of transportation. Sometimes, it can complement them. That's the aim of a new partnership between Lyft and Amtrak. Users can now book a Lyft ride to train stations via Amtrak's smartphone app, Lyft announced in a blog post. New Lyft users can also get $5.00 off their first four rides with the promotional code "AMTRAKLYFT."
The partnership shows how ride sharing can fill a major gap in transportation services. So-called "first mile" and "last mile" ride sharing aims to solve the problem of getting people to and from transportation hubs. Even if travelers are willing to park their own cars and take the train, they still need a way to get to the station. Ride sharing allows them to completely avoid driving—including finding parking, which can be limited at some train stations, and often isn't free.
Ride-sharing companies have largely conquered the market for rides to airports, but train stations could be the next frontier. Lyft claims rides to public-transit stations already make up 25 percent of its Chicago-area traffic, and Amtrak claims the company can already reach 97 percent of its passengers nationwide. Last year, the town of Summit, New Jersey, began subsidizing Uber rides as an alternative to building more parking at its commuter rail station.
These types of services could help reduce the number of cars on the road by making rail travel more attractive, in turn decreasing traffic and emissions. It's a little less dramatic than the much-discussed theoretical future in which ride sharing replace private car ownership, but that scenario may not reduce the number of cars on the road. It could just change who is driving.
The Amtrak partnership is the latest in a series of new initiatives for Lyft as it moves aggressively to gain ground on rival Uber. Lyft also recently announced partnerships with Disney and Taco Bell, and is launching its own self-driving car development lab. While still far beyond Uber in size, Lyft is apparently trying to make the most of the many scandals engulfing the larger company, which led to the resignation of CEO Travis Kalanick.