Ride-hailing giant Uber’s latest feature may seem a little surprising at first – in the US city of Denver, the app now shows public transport options alongside the price and journey time offered by its own taxis.
Uber admits that when compared, public transport often wins both on efficiency and price.
But it thinks it’s worth it as a way to increase time spent on the app.
“People already use different ways to choose how to get from A to B,” Fred Jones, Uber’s Head of New Mobility for the UK and Ireland, told Business Traveller at the Business Travel Show in London this week.
“We’re helping people make that choice from one place inside our app.”
Uber says 15 million people use its app each day.
In Denver, it partnered with the city’s Regional Transportation District to provide real-time public transport updates, end-to-end directions and an estimated total journey time. It is available under a ‘transit’ label next to Uber’s own options such as Uber Pool (cheaper rides shared with other users), Uber XL (larger vehicles) and Uber Exec (fancier ones).
The feature won’t stop in Denver, and London and Paris are “top priorities” for a roll-out, Jones said.
The next step will be to add a multi-stage option, so the app can advise cost-efficient and time-saving routes based partially on public transport and partly an Uber vehicle, Jones added.
Last month Uber launched a loyalty programme in San Francisco and at the Business Travel Show was showcasing its corporate travel management system Uber for Business.
Jones also gave a talk about its electrification plans; in London it has started adding a 15p fee to every fare which it will redistribute among drivers to put towards buying electric vehicles. The aim is to have an all-electric fleet in the capital by 2025.
But with tightening competition from rivals such as Lyft, Grab and smaller local players, and a planned stock market flotation this year, Uber is also looking to expand beyond cars.
It has ventured into the fast-growing food delivery market with Uber Eats and last year started Jump, a way of finding electric push bikes in cities.
It is also looking at ways to partner with public transport bodies. In the UK it linked up with Virgin Trains to send an optional text to passengers shortly before their arrival with a link allowing them to book an Uber from a recommended pick-up point, even if they don’t have the app.
Meanwhile last month it announced “an entire suite of services we’re offering to transit agencies that go beyond our app.”