The transit strike in San Francisco’s bay area is turning out to be a boon for ride sharing startups Lyft and Sidecar. There are around 400,000 commuters that are being displaced by the BART strike and folks without cars find themselves hunting around for rides. Uber is finding itself with an uptick in business as well. The situation reminds me how Airbnb got a kickstart to its growth by rolling out in cities where the company knew there was going to be a major shortage of hotel rooms, like political conventions or the olympics. There’s nothing like a supply constrained market to encourage a little sharing.
Though moving beyond San Francisco is looking more difficult for ride sharing than expansion has been for Airbnb. Most recently Los Angeles’ Department of Transportation sent Uber, Lyft and Sidecar cease and desist letters, claiming that ride sharing services are safety problems and are disenfranchising taxis. As an LA resident, it’s obvious that finding a taxi is a real pain, made difficult by the vast geography that is Los Angeles. The regulatory authorities are stuck in the middle, trying to encourage more taxis on the roads while also choking off new innovations like ride sharing to protect the business of existing taxi drivers. It’s a lose-lose situation. Maybe LA needs a transit strike to kickstart some ride sharing?