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Baltimore with fewer cars? Uber, Lyft banking on it

 

 

Uber and Lyft told state transportation leaders Wednesday they see a future where cities like Baltimore will be served largely by ride-share or autonomous vehicles. (Illustration by Maximilian Franz)

Uber and Lyft told state transportation leaders Wednesday they see a future where cities like Baltimore will be served largely by ride-share or autonomous vehicles. (Illustration by Maximilian Franz)

Ride hailing companies Uber and Lyft believe their services will not only revolutionize transportation in urban areas but alter how cities are designed in the future.

Robert Grant, senior director of public policy for North America Lyft, and Uber’s Director of Public Affairs Colin Tooze, explained during the Greater Baltimore Committee’s Transportation Summit on Wednesday how the companis plan to use technologies, such as self-driving vehicles, to drastically reduce the number of cars on city streets.

“(It’s) an alternate to a world that looks like a parking lot and moves like a traffic jam,” Tooze said.

If these firms can succeed in largely removing the need for private automobiles in cities it would go a long way to eliminate a thorn in the side of developers, brokers and management companies: parking.

A major hassle and expense for office, retail and residential properties in the city is parking. Including interior parking adds to construction expense, hampers design flexibility and limits the amount of space available in a building. It also provides suburban developments, which can often offer free parking, a competitive advantage.

Both firms are promoting an idea of a city dominated by pedestrians with fewer cars on the street. Uber is predicting the rise of autonomous vehicles paired with ride-sharing could cut the number of cars on the street by 90 percent. That means reimagining U.S. cities, where 20 percent of land is now used for parking vehicles that sit unused 95 percent of the time.

“This is this insanity of how we design cities,” Tooze said.

Lyft is also betting on some bold predictions, such as cities being nearly carless in less than a decade. The goal of the company, Grant said, is to all but end private car ownership in cities by 2025.

Lyft, which has seen ride growth in Baltimore expand 130 percent in the last year, is betting on customers deciding they no longer want to make room in their budgets for car payments, insurance premiums and various state fees. One way the company is considering making that an easier decision is by charging a subscription, such as customers pay for Netflix, which provides access to unlimited rides and other services.

With their presentations highlighting slogans, such as “A transportation revolution is coming” and “cities re-designed for people not cars,” ride-share companies clearly are thinking beyond their next passenger.

Do you have real estate news to share? Contact Adam Bednar at adam.bednar@thedailyrecord.com.

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