Intermodal freight transportation has provided businesses with flexibility in their supply chain for decades.  Similar to supply chain complexity, urbanization is making commuting around cities increasingly challenging —roads can be congested, travel times can double, and commuters are constantly looking for additional conveniences. Uber and Lyft are the top disruptors in the field of ride-sharing throughout the United States. Furthering their strategies of creating efficiencies and convenience in commuting, both companies are now branching further out into multi-modal transportation strategies and their applicability to urban environments.

What is Multi-Modal?

Multi-modal transportation, otherwise known as combined transport, is the combination of different means of transport, in order to make the movement of cargo easier, faster and more efficient. Uber and Lyft are both undertaking the notion of creating multi-modal cities as populations shift into urban environments.

Uber and Lyft are in acquisition talks with various companies this year to expand their transportation offerings. This is their multi-modal approach—a strategy that means having a market share in different forms of transportation. Uber and Lyft already offer a handful of ride types in their apps. They offer shared rides, low-cost rides for large groups, luxury vehicles, and wheelchair-accessible vehicles, among others. However, traditional bikes, electric bikes, electronic scooters, and buses are fair game for both companies.

Bikeshare or Scooter Around

Another aim of ride-hailing apps is to make cities greener, smarter, and even more accessible to people. In Seattle, this August, Uber, Lyft, and LimeBike have sought to operate bike-sharing in the city by 2019. Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) recently passed bike regulations that allow only four companies to operate, with 5,000 units each. Ten bike-sharing companies expressed their interest in joining, but only three applied for permits. SDOT granted Uber’s JUMP the ability to operate in the city, as well as two other companies. It seeks to provide consumers an alternative to car ownership and commuting.

To use a bike, a user needs to download the app and locate one within the vicinity through the app. JUMP will send a PIN to unlock the bike, while a person using LimeBike can scan the QR code through the app. Once done using the bike, the user can leave it at any designated public area and lock it.

With Sequioa Capital, Uber and Google making large investments in scooter technology, Bird, Lime, and Spin. These scooters are aimed at tackling the travel of people for short distances across cities. Bird, the quickest company to ever become a unicorn, is announcing expansion plans outside of the U.S.

multi-modal transportation strategy gif of uber and lyft cars and limebike and cabify buildings
Uber and Lyft, racing for a global multi-modal expansion.

Special Shuttling

Uber and Lyft reportedly pursued a bus startup called Skedaddle. Skedaddle offers one particular service: easy public transport for large groups of people by bus. It is one form of ride-sharing, but for people who are going to the same destination — like a music festival for instance. It lets individuals crowdsource private-public bus rides. As soon as there is demand for the same ride from different people, the bus is considered booked.

Skedaddle is a company based in Boston and New York and has maintained operations in the East Coast. It recently expanded after the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. on March 2017. The company said it transported more than 11,000 individuals to the march, attracting a lot of media attention since then.

However, no conclusions or further plans have been announced after the reported discussions with Skedaddle.

Discontinued Discussions

In July this year, it was reported that Lyft was in talks to acquire Spanish transportation company, Cabify. This was a lucrative option for Lyft, which would expand its operations beyond the US Canada as Cabify serves Latin America, Spain, and Portugal. Lyft also established an office in Munich, Germany, but operations in Europe have yet to begin. However, Cabify categorically denied the reports about the supposed acquisition. It says it is in excellent financial health and will continue to establish itself in the markets in which it operates.

Uber likewise tried making a deal with the bike-sharing company, Motivate. It is the firm behind San Francisco’s GoBikes. The deal fell through for undisclosed reasons. However, as soon as Uber passed on the deal, Lyft acquired Motivate for $250 million, making it America’s largest bikeshare company. Motivate operates as New York’s Citi Bike, Chicago’s Divvy, Washington D.C.s Capital Bikeshare, and Boston’s Bluebikes. Between these four cities, the company generated 74% of the nation’s docked or dockless rides which were taken in 2017.

Head-to-Head Race

Uber and Lyft are in the race for global multi-modal expansion. They are going after the same opportunities in the hope of providing more options for the public and creating sustainability for communities everywhere. People all over the US and the rest of the world are highly interested in the expansion developments of these ride-sharing companies. Any new offering ultimately signals the advancement of transportation and mobility, the strengthening of economies, and enhancement of people-centered societies.

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