Ridesharing nibbling away at public transit ridership in Peninsula, South Bay

PALO ALTO, Calif. (KGO) -- Ridesharing services are taking a bite out of public transit on the Peninsula and in the South Bay. Ridership is down between four and five percent for both SamTrans and VTA, the Valley Transportation Authority.

"If ridership does continue to decline, yes, maybe some hard decisions will have to be made," said Dan Lieberman, a media relations representative at SamTrans.

RELATED: Building A Better Bay Area: Rideshare realities

Uber and Lyft may be only part of the reason for the decline.

"Gas prices have been historically low for the past couple of years," said Brandi Childress, public affairs manager at VTA. "Cost of housing is driving people out of the area, and you're not going to have people taking transit back to the city. They need their cars for that."

To reverse the decline, SamTrans is going to test its own rideshare service in a month or so in the Linda Mar area of Pacifica. It will use shuttle vans which riders can hail using a mobile phone app. SamTrans is calling this new on-demand service "microtransit." The fare will be $2.25.

The decline in ridership is not only a Bay Area phenomenon. Studies are indicating it's happening across the country.

To offset the decline, VTA's board next month will look at eliminating low-ridership routes in favor of boosting service on more heavily used lines. On the other hand, it sees a potential boost in ridership when BART comes to San Jose at the end of the year, feeding passengers onto its bus network.

Employers are also helping to support public transit as competition increases.

RELATED: San Francisco's love-hate relationship with rideshares spawning proposal to tax Uber, Lyft rides

"Usually I take public transit," said Grant Southwick. "It's less expensive, and my company pays for it."

Would-be transit riders are also being siphoned away by self-propelled modes of transportation.

"We see the rise of easily rentable bikes. We see scooters popping up all over the place. So change is constant," said SamTrans' Dan Lieberman.

Change, or call it disruption if you will, can be challenging.

See full coverage on ridshare realities here, and more stories and videos about Building a Better Bay Area here.
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