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Uber for trains? New feature allows Denver riders to book transit with app

In-app ticketing aims to make Uber a better last-mile solution

A new Uber feature will allow users to coordinate trips with public transit in Denver, and eventually pau for train and bus rides in-app.
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With options to rent scooters and electric bikes via its Jump subsidiary, a ride with Uber no longer means getting into a car. Now, thanks to a new feature launching in Denver, it could also mean jumping on a train or bus.

Starting today, Uber’s Transit feature will allow Denver users to plan their trips with public transportation in mind, including paying for rides on buses and trains in-app. Tickets will cost the same via Uber as they would using other payment methods.

“For the first time ever, taking an Uber trip can mean taking public transit,” said David Reich, Uber’s head of transit, in a statement. “With this step, we are moving closer to making Uber’s platform a one-stop shop for transportation access, from shared rides to buses and bikes.”

Uber users in Denver will be able to select “Transit” as an available transportation option, and then be able to plan their trip utilizing bus or light rail. The new feature will include real-time transit information for the Denver Regional Transportation District (RTD), as well as step-by-step directions. Developed with technology from Masabi, a mobile ticketing service that began working with the ride-hailing giant last year, this new service will allow users to purchase and validate fare passes using a QR code from within the Uber app.

Uber
Uber

Uber and RTD are banking on the fact that this collaboration both allows more users to utilize Uber as a last-mile solution, and gets more passengers on transit.

“This exciting next phase of RTD’s collaboration with Uber is yet another way our transit agency is leading the dialogue about mobility strategy, not just for the Denver metro region but for cities across the globe,” said RTD CEO and general manager Dave Genova in a statement. “This project broadens our reach and stays at pace with the public’s needs, allowing people to plan and pay for trips from start to finish.”

This launch highlights both the push by transit companies to create all-in-one mobility solutions—what Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has called the “Amazon of transit”—and the increased competition between Uber and Lyft to broaden their offerings and incorporate more multimodal options they go public, as Lyft did in March.

Uber, which is planning an IPO, has already made partnering with transit agencies worldwide a part of its growth strategy, according to a story in the Wall Street Journal, collaborating with cities such as New Delhi, Cairo, and Sydney in a bid to increase ridership.

Trip planning with transportation apps already exists—Lyft offers directions to scooters and transit stations in Los Angeles, for example, part of its bid to increase multimodal transit options and decrease personal car ownership—but Uber’s bid to combine planning and routing with ticketing is the first for a U.S. city.

Uber

According to Masabi, whose Justride SDK mobile ticketing software is being used, combining public transit and private ridehailing options to get around is an increasingly common choice. A 2018 survey by the company found 35 percent of people with access to public transit combine it with services like Uber and Lyft “on at least an occasional basis.”

Uber has previously worked with cities on last-mile solutions, launching pilot programs that allowed cities to subsidize rides to and from transit stations via the app. The Denver partnership represents a shift toward working with transit agencies directly, and highlights how the company, under Khosrowshahi, has made collaboration with cities a higher priority.