RSG159: David Zipper on Uber Transit

Over the past few months, Uber has been rapidly shedding cash-burning business units, like Elevate and self-driving cars. It’s part of a larger trend of consolidation since CEO Dara Khosrowshahi took over. However, one less-flashy segment has been booming: Uber Transit. In this episode, I’ll talk with David Zipper on Uber Transit, how it fits into the Uber picture, and a new report from the Uber Transit team. 

Also, take a look at the Smarter Cars podcast! Michele Kyrouz releases her podcast in seasons, giving her audience something to look forward to. Her new season just premiered in January, and I really enjoyed the episode with Carl Vernesson from Voi. Find all the links to Smarter Cars below in our Show Notes.

Intro to David Zipper

  • 3-time RSG podcast guest!
  • David Zipper’s perspective on cities and urban mobility is rooted in his experience in city hall, venture capitalism, policy research and more
  • He advises numerous startups, mayors and transit agencies
  • His writing has been published in The Atlantic, Slate, Newsweek and more
  • He focuses on the relationship between transit and ride hail services

Rideshare and Uber’s Transit Products

  • Since rideshare came out, has shown a negative impact on transit
  • A source of growing controversy among transit agencies
  • 3 business products Uber Transit uses: Uber Rides for Transit, Uber Transit Software Solutions, Uber Maas Solutions

Uber Rides for Transit, Software

  • Uber offers point to point trips, argues transit services can save money instead of running bus service for fewer people
  • Problem with convenience – leads to induced demand
  • Concern is when transit agencies think providing subsidized trips in a suburban area is better than bus service
  • Makes sense for certain subsidized rides, however – paratransit, for example

Uber Maas Solutions

  • Better than using a variety of city transit apps?
  • First mile/last mile – it’s not working (only in limited circumstances)
  • Skeptical – what do transit agencies really gain? What data will transit agencies receive?
  • Some modes will never be available through the app (bikeshare, for example)

What is the Main Goal of Transit Agencies?: Future of Transit

  • Biggest problem right now: getting people to take transit after COVID!
  • As people return to travel, decisions may look different from pre-2020
  • Encourage transit agencies to be more like Starbucks – negotiate carefully
  • Not convinced this is actually happening – do they know they can negotiate?


  • Thanks to David for coming on the podcast and the lively discussion
  • David’s perspective is key – he’s passionate about what’s best for cities, transit but recognizes companies do offer some solutions that help
  • Curious to see the MaaS solution going forward

Show Notes