BCG Henderson Institute

Generic filters

This article is based on data collected and graciously shared by Via Transportation as part of a joint research program between the company and BCG.

For a century, mass transit and private cars have served different needs in the urban mobility landscape. Mass transit was designed to move as many people as possible at the lowest out-of-pocket cost for passengers, while cars offered flexibility and freedom.

But neither is working effectively in most cities. As cities have grown denser and more sprawling, mass transit has become a growing public expense and an inflexible option for passengers, who resort to using private cars. This rise in solo trips increases pollution and congestion. Meanwhile, many residents of low-income neighborhoods remain unable to reach good jobs, perpetuating income inequality.

To date, travel innovation, such as ride hailing, has contributed to rather than alleviated these challenges. Ride hailing was responsible for two-thirds of the increase in traffic congestion in San Francisco from 2010 to 2016, according to an academic study.

There has to be a middle way—one that complements mass transit and allows cities to develop new travel options that reduce congestion and pollution and increase ridership. As mass transit adopts new technologies such as smartphone apps and cloud computing, that middle way is emerging.

Sources & Notes