Posts in the category "ground transporation":

United adds Uber to its mobile app

Uber app

United Airlines has expanded its mobile app to include a link to Uber transportation services.

According to United, the app will display Uber information, including types of available vehicles, estimated wait times and prices. After you pick a ride, the United app will transfer you to the Uber app (or to the Uber website to sign up for an account) to complete the transaction.

This despite the fact that many airports around the country are having disputes with Uber and other transportation network companies (TNCs) such as Lyft and Sidecar, which operate at airports without licenses to do so.

United seems to be taking a side here, and to get you started with Uber, when you sign up for Uber via the United app you’ll get 1,000 MileagePlus award miles when you complete your first transaction (limited time offer…)

DFW Light Rail stations opens months early

DFW DART

Courtesy DFW

It’s rare that a transportation construction project is completed early.

Rarer still for this sort of project to be completed months early.

Yet that’s the good news from DFW International Airport, where the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) orange line DFW Airport Station opens Monday, August 18, 2014 – instead of December, 2014 – in Terminal A.

Here are a few key details for riders:

A ride on the 14 mile line will cost $2.50 for a two hour pass and $5 for a day pass.

Destinations you’ll be able to reach include, the Mustangs of Las Colinas, Irving Convention Center, Dallas Museum of Art, Perot Museum, Klyde Warren Park, the West End, American Airlines Center, Downtown Plano and more.

To accommodate airport employees and those with early morning flights, the train’s operating hours will be from 4 am to 1 am, 7 days a week.

Cities, airports butt heads over rideshare services

App-powered ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft keep butting heads with regulators in cities around the country, claiming that rules for traditional taxis are outdated and not applicable to new transportation models.

Here’s my story on the latest chapter in the battle that appeared on CNBC Road Warrior.

Glacier National Park visitors 1960

After a few weeks of negotiations with state and city authorities and the threat of a restraining order, Lyft worked out a deal to start service in New York City beginning Friday at 7 p.m.

Manhattan, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island will, for now, get a limited version of the service that was originally planned, but the deal means Lyft is putting operations in Buffalo and Rochester on hold by Aug. 1 while it works out a variety of insurance and regulatory issues.

In Memphis, Tennessee, Uber and Lyft continue service despite recent cease-and-desist orders from the city.

Uber spokesman Lane Kasselman said via email that while the company was not aware of any actions taken by the city of Memphis, “any attempt to restrict consumer choice and limit economic opportunity does nothing but hurt the thousands of residents and visitors who already rely on Uber for safe, affordable and reliable transportation.”

But Lyft spokeswoman Erin Simpson said the company took the cease-and-desist letter “as an opportunity to start a conversation with local leaders about Lyft’s peer-to-peer model and how we can work together to craft new rules that prioritize safety.”

Consumer alerts and cease-and-desist orders against Uber, Lyft and other transportation network companies are in effect in more than a dozen other cities and states. But while the so-called transportation disruptors have gained regulatory approval in Seattle, Minneapolis and a handful of other jurisdictions around the country, pushback at the national level continues.

Through its “Who’s Driving You?” campaign, the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association is tracking insurance alerts regarding rideshare companies and soliciting and sharing passenger complaints and negative news stories about the services.

“We would like to see ridesharing companies following a single set of rules designed to protect the public in the taxicab space,” said Dave Sutton, spokesperson for TLPA’s ‘Who’s Driving You?’ campaign.

TLPA also recently drew attention to the fact that the Airport Ground Transportation Association, a trade organization for airport ground transportation operators, airports and others, issued a warning to North American airports.

“Transportation Network Companies have moved beyond city regulations to now challenge airport ground transportation regulations as not applying to them. They intend to operate at airports and challenge airport officials to stop them,” said Ray Mundy, AGTA executive director, in the warning.

That plan already seems to be underway.

In 2013, when California became the first state to regulate ridesharing services, the Public Utilities Commission included a provision prohibiting TNCs from operating “on the property of or into any airport unless such operations are authorized by the airport involved.”

But in June 2014, law enforcement officials at five major California airports (LAX, OAK, SAN, SFO and SJC) told the commission that many ridesharing services were flouting those rules by continuing to operate at the airports without permits.

“We’ve invested a lot of work since last fall, trying to find a way to create a lawful way for TNCs to operate at airports,” said Doug Yakel, spokesman for San Francisco International Airport. But he said while SFO is in discussions with several TNC companies regarding permits, “thus far we have not completed this process for any company.”

Airports in Chicago, Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, and many other cities have also grappled with the TNC issue.

Now Airports Council International-North America, the trade organization for North American airports, is getting involved.

While “it is unacceptable for TNCs to simply ignore regulations and requirements with which they disagree, as has been the case at some airports … the demand for transportation network companies cannot be overlooked and must be addressed,” said Deborah McElroy, ACI-NA executive vice president.

ACI-NA has put together a task force to help airport officials establish regulations and work out reasonable solutions, although given the circumstances at individual airports, the appropriate solutions may differ greatly, said McElroy.

And while “there’s no handbook yet” for dealing with TNCs in cities and airports, “we’re just seeing the beginning of a new method of transportation that’s vastly superior to what came before,” said Joshua Schank, president and CEO of the Eno Center for Transportation. “They will eventually find a way to regulate them and make them safe.”

One more (green) way to get to DC-area airports

Claiming it will “disrupt the disrupters,” Green Tomato Cars, an eco-friendly car service that has found success in London, plans to go up against Uber, Lyft and other app-dispatched, ride-share companies offering an alternative to traditional taxis in the Washington, D.C. market.

Besides the quirky name, the company hopes to stand out by offering reserved rides, transparent pricing and Wi-Fi-equipped hybrid vehicles.

Noting that the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles recently sent Uber and Lyft cease and desist letters, and that those companies, and others, are dealing with regulatory hurdles in California and some other states, Green Tomato also boasts that it is legal.

“We’re different in that we own the cars. They’re commercially insured and our contract drivers—we call them ambassadors—are fully trained and have undergone rigorous background checks,” said founder and Vice President Jonny Goldstone.

With a pool of potential customers who are “thoughtful, well-educated consumers, interested in the environment and quite demanding in terms of service expectations,” D.C. was Green Tomato’s first pick for expansion because it was the closest fit to the London market, said Goldstone.

Paris will be the next city to get Green Tomato Cars, with Chicago, Boston and San Francisco under consideration.

“What they will need to do in order to compete,” with services such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar, is “offer a great user experience on the app; scale to other cities quickly and be able to offer on-demand service,” said PhoCusWright research analyst Maggie Rauch. “A pricing promise could be very appealing, too, as the biggest player, Uber, has managed to confuse and anger consumers with some of their surge pricing policies.”

Green Tomato has 500 vehicles serving London, where competitors include Addison Lee and Uber. In Washington, Green Tomato’s fleet currently has just 25 cars, but that number should triple by the fall, said Goldstone.

Until it does, the company is not serving all of area, but focusing on providing a licensed, bookable service to and from Dulles International, Reagan National and Baltimore Washington International airports with a published menu of competitive fares. Despite the Virginia DMV statewide cease and desist orders, Uber and Lyft continue to serve the market.

“We are in productive discussions with the Virginia Commonwealth government on an ongoing basis, and continue to operate as usual. Riders can enjoy Uber trips to and from any Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority airport,” said Uber’s Taylor Bennett via email.

“We are continuing to work with state officials to craft new rules for this new industry,” Lyft spokeswoman Chelsea Wilson said via email. “In terms of airport operations, we are also continuing productive and collaborative conversations to come to a solution that preserves a way forward for this community-powered transportation movement.”

Neither company would comment on the service Green Tomato Cars provides to the D.C.-area airports, but airports authority spokeswoman Kimberly Gibbs said that, like other jurisdictions around the country, it is studying the “expanding ground transportation landscape” for ways to incorporate new technologies “while ensuring customer safety, satisfaction and experience.”

Gibbs said if a company is authorized to operate in Virginia, it can operate at the Dulles and Regan National airports. If not, “they could be ticketed.”

(My story on Green Tomato Cars first appeared on CNBC Road Warrior)

 

After the flight? Try a bike share in the city.

It’s great to fly to a new city for business or leisure travel, but how will you get around once you’re in town?
In more and more cities, bike-share programs – along with mass transit- are the answer.

Here’s a story I put together for CNBC Road Warrior on some of the bike-share programs rolling out around the country:

Pronto Bikes

Despite some financial and legal challenges, bike-sharing programs are rolling out in cities throughout North America.

Locals and visitors in Minneapolis, New York, Washington and about 30 other North American cities can now buy daily, weekly or annual program memberships and/or pay hourly fees to check out a bike to ride around town.

Cities such as Tampa; San Diego; Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, British Columbia, will soon be launching programs.

Seattle is the latest city to announce that it is joining the bike-share bandwagon, with a start date in September for Pronto Emerald City Cycle Share, which will kick off with 50 docking stations around town for 500 blue and green bikes.

As in other cities, grants, private sponsorships and user fees will make the bike-share program possible. But with a contribution of $2.5 million from Seattle-based Alaska Airlines, the Emerald City is the first to have its bike-share program sponsored by an airline.

“We’re excited to help residents and visitors get out and explore,” said Joe Sprague, the airline’s vice president of marketing. “Our investment in this program is an investment in our community.”

It may seem odd that a traditionally fuel-guzzling form of transportation is supporting a very green one, but Alaska Airlines has a strong sustainability program.

“Biking in a city puts smiles on people’s faces, and airlines want to be associated with people having fun while traveling,” said Andy Clarke, president of the Washington, D.C.-based League of American Bicyclists.

That fun has bubbled over to political and policy decisions in other cities.

“When Paris introduced their system a decade ago, it was striking how many mayors around the world said ‘I want that,’ ” said Clarke.

And biking through a city is no longer seen as unconventional.

“Maybe 10 years ago biking would have been a granola effort in the sense that people choosing to bike were part of the environmental movement,” said Joshua Schank, president and CEO of the non-profit Eno Center for Transportation.

“Bike-sharing has helped change that. In places like Washington, D.C., and Chicago you see people in suits and ties riding the bikes because it’s a convenient and effective way to get to work. Not because they’re saving the Earth,” said Schank.

While setting up a bike-share program may seem as easy as putting up some racks with bikes, “it’s complicated and not cheap, easy or free. There’s a lot to it,” said Clarke.

And these programs are not without flats.

In January 2014, Montreal-based Public Bike System Company (known as Bixi), which provided bike-share equipment to programs in several countries, sought bankruptcy protection with more than $44 million in debt.  Contributing to the company’s financial downfall was a problem with the software for bike docking stations in some major cities, which caused those cities to withhold payments.

The company was sold in April.

“That raised a bunch of question and has hampered a few cities from pushing ahead,” said Clarke. “They’re asking more questions about the financial implications, but I don’t think it will have much of a lasting effect on the take-up of bike share programs.”

Portland, Ore.-based Alta Bicycle Share, which manages bike-share programs in cities including Chicago, New York, Boston, and Washington, is working with 8D Technologies to begin installing improved docking and software systems in bike-share cities that once relied on Bixi. Seattle’s Pronto program will be the first.

The cost of setting up bike-share programs is also coming down.

“When the bike-share concept came to the U.S. in 2010, it cost about $6,000 per bike to get on the street, including the kiosks, racks and installation,” said Josh Squire, CEO of Miami-based CycleHop, which is working on launching programs in Tampa, Atlanta, Phoenix, Orlando, Louisville and Ottawa.

Now with smart bikes and new technology, it’s possible to get a program going for $3,000 to $5,000 per bike, said Squire. “And more sponsors—including banks, health-care companies and, now, airlines—are stepping up to help shoulder the costs, paying $500 to $1,000 per year per bike to sponsor the programs.”

For travelers wanting to try out a bike-share program in a new city, Clarke has a few tips.

Bring a helmet. And if you think you’ll want a bike for a half or full day, consider getting one from a traditional bike rental outlet. That may end up being less expensive than bike-share programs, which often don’t charge members for rides under 30 minutes, but start a meter running after that.

“But in a city like Washington, D.C., that can still be cheaper than one cab ride,” said Clarke.

And nothing beats the experience of riding up and down the National Mall on a bike.”

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