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Miami Transit Director: Uber And Lyft May Not Be The Answer

They are helpful, but unless they become financially stable, Uber and Lyft may not be Miami's answer to last-mile transit. Or so says the head of Miami-Dade County's transit planning organization.  

Michael Adler, CEO of Adler Group, discussing TOD challenges at a recent Bisnow transit-oriented development event in Miami

Aileen Bouclé, the executive director of the Miami-Dade Transportation Planning Organization, said ride-sharing app services do help the county's transit system with those connections between station and destination, but their financial instability makes them something the county may not be able to count on as a long-term solution.

“Unfortunately, the Uber and Lyft model is not financially feasible and is operating at a huge loss, and is actually even more subsidized than public transit today,” Bouclé said during Bisnow's Transit-Oriented Development in South Florida event on May 11. “So we're taking a very close look at that model and we want it to be successful ... so we can apply that in the public transit realm.”

While increasing revenues 250% in 2016, Lyft reportedly lost about $600M at the same time. Uber has lost money annually since 2012, according to reports, culminating in a $2.8B loss in 2016. Both transportation companies are viewed as potential transit solutions, especially as Miami's corridors are regularly jammed with vehicles.

“The challenge is first and foremost the level of congestion we have today,” Bouclé said. "[It] affects our neighborhoods."

Adler Group CEO Michael Adler said another challenge is simply to teach Miami residents patience when it comes to TOD projects and their impact on traffic.

“In this world, where change happens and disruptive technologies bang us in the head, we would like instant results to change what we don't like and only embrace what we do like,” Adler said. "And it doesn't work that way in the real world."

He added that the infrastructure and density around transit stations needs to get built in order for “the public to get used to what a real urban environment means.”

The Peebles Corp. CEO Don Peebles discussing Miami's transit-oriented development challenges with Joseph Hernandez, an attorney with Weiss Serota Helfman Cole & Bierman

The Peebles Corp CEO Don Peebles said South Florida is riddled with municipalities that do not typically work together, and he sees a need for more central planning. He also called for more incentives to encourage workforce housing closer into the city and around transit nodes.

"[The region's] workforce cannot afford to live close to where they work, so they are now having to drive until they can qualify or afford a place to live," Peebles said. "And that could be an hour and a half. So you're getting a loss of productivity as well as having so many people on the streets.”

He said last week Miami's escalating land prices deserve a large part of the blame for the lack of affordable housing.

“It's not unusual for a typical worker in Miami ... to spend three hours getting to and from work," he said. "That really is where it shows the impact of getting people close to where they work and live.”