“We’ve spent the last couple decades trying to dig ourselves out of the mess of building our transportation systems around single occupancy vehicles,” Samponaro said. “We don’t want overnight for us to go backwards there.”
Samponaro declined to say if the plans would have any adverse impact on Lyft’s core business, and said that streets are currently an underutilized resource with little done to make them sustainable or efficient. Lyft wants to make cities more effective and efficient, she said.
Transportation and planning experts welcomed Lyft’s proposals. Robin Chase, who founded Zipcar and now leads the New Urban Mobility alliance, said that Lyft’s concepts would benefit the company, despite taking space away from cars that make up most of its business right now.
“It’s self-serving and it’s also correct,” Chase said. “It’s high time for cities to start promoting true multi-modalism.”
With multimodal transportation there’s less need to own a car, Chase said, making residents more likely to use Lyft’s services, which include shared bikes and scooters, rather than defaulting to personal cars.
“Those of us in the business, we know cities need to reallocate space away from single occupancy vehicles,” said Gabe Klein, a partner at the city planning group CityFi, who previously led transportation departments in Chicago and Washington, DC. “This amplifies a very positive message.”
Greg Billing, executive director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, said it’s helpful to have voices like Lyft involved.
“We need to make our transportation system work and safe for people who need to get around,” he said.
One of Lyft’s case studies suggests building bus and bike lanes on M Street in Southwest Washington, DC, a broad street that caters to many lanes of car traffic.
Bill Schultheiss, vice president of the urban planning group Toole Design, said he’s excited by the proposal. It resembles a plan he proposed 10 years ago that never came to fruition.
“Back then I knew it was a long shot, and today this feels realistic,” Schultheiss said. “That tells you how much the mindset of everybody involved has changed.”