Uber's IPO documents admit that they need to destroy public transit.

In case you haven't heard, many Uber and Lyft drivers are on strike today nationwide, so if you use either of those services today, not only are you supporting a vile business model and an appalling corporate culture that is destroying your cities, but you're also crossing a picket line while doing so.

Oh, apropos of nothing, KC reports:

In the "tone deaf moves on the day of a strike" department, I just learned that Lyft chartered a boat I used to work on for a company yacht party today.

Uber has acknowledged in a federal filing that its long-term goal is to privatize public transportation around the world.

In a document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the ride-hail company reports that it seeks, as part of its growth strategy, not just to get people out of private cars but to get them off public buses and trains. Those public services would be replaced by Uber Buses, now being tested in Cairo.

That stunning revelation is deep in a 300-page document called an S1, which the SEC requires for any company planning an initial public offering. [...] Uber admits in the document that it might never make a profit; that it continues to lose billions by underpricing its product (rides) to gain customer loyalty and market share; and that its entire business model could collapse if regulators or the courts decide that its drivers are employees, not private contractors.

So how is this company going to be attractive to investors? By about page 160, the company starts talking about its "Total Addressable Market." [...]

Increasing Ridesharing penetration in existing markets. [...] We believe we can continue to grow the number of trips taken with our Ridesharing products and replace personal vehicle ownership and usage and public transportation one use case at a time, including through continued investment in our affordable Ridesharing options, such as Uber Bus and Express POOL.

The company, as far as I know, has never admitted that before. Its PR materials always talk about the environmental benefits of getting people out of private cars. The idea of decimating public transportation in the name of profits for a global corporation is pretty scary.

We have seen this before, starting in the 1930s, when a handful of big companies including General Motors and Standard Oil bought up urban rail lines around the country to force people to buy private cars. This is now considered a dark moment in environmental and transportation policy that created, among other things, the freeways and smog of Los Angeles and the end of rail transit on the Bay Bridge.

There's a reason transportation, especially urban transportation, is public. Many Muni lines would lose money if they were treated as business ventures; they don't have enough passengers to justify their existence. But San Francisco has a policy of making transit available to everyone, in every neighborhood.

The 8 Bayshore and the 9 San Bruno, for example, serve southeast neighborhoods that badly need transit access -- but that likely wouldn't get an Uber bus.

But Uber is telling Wall Street that its future as a company may depend on its ability to convince people to take private cars and buses instead of public transit, starving transit and ultimately forcing everyone to pay Uber to get around.

Sup. Aaron Peskin, who chairs the Land Use and Transportation Committee and has long been critical of Uber, told me that "this sounds like a Machiavellian plan to harm the tens of millions of people who rely on public transit ... if there's a definition of evil, this is it." [...]

Uber would probably not exist in its current format if San Francisco and other cities had not allowed it to break the law and run illegal cabs for years. Now, as always seems to be the case, policy-makers are scrambling to figure out how to deal with the impacts of Uber-friendly policies.

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14 Responses:

  1. Zygo says:

    The really fascinating thing in this whole trainwreck is this:

    Uber admits in the document that it might never make a profit; that it continues to lose billions by underpricing its product

    They get those billions from investors, since they're not getting it from customers or governments. So there are people who are so much in favor of Uber's world view and goals that they're willing to collectively spend billions of their own money to make it happen.

    They could just spend that money on public transit instead--they won't get their money back either way.

    Lyft loses billions too. I'm not sure these people know how capitalism works. I guess investors just really hate buses and trains?

    • MattyJ says:

      They love buses, just not the public ones.

    • Michael says:

      What you see here is, in part, the after effects of 2008. The central banks, in their desire to keep the status quo going, pumped so much money into the economy it had to go somewhere. So in part this money props up companies like Uber.

      There is a part of me that can’t wait for the next crash, just to see what they will try next. Because $deity forbid if they would actually rethink the way things are done and then manage a transition.

      See also: Climate Change.

      • tobias says:

        it will be glorious. I will be out of a job, but that is the price of glory.

    • tfb says:

      I think that the investors probably hope that Uber will make money, in the same way that the investors in the South Sea company did.

    • tfb says:

      I think that the investors probably hope that Uber will make money in due course, in the same way that the investors in the South Sea company did.

  2. MattyJ says:

    I like (don't like) how Uber et al still refer to themselves as 'rideshare'. So much more palatable than 'private taxi incubus'.

  3. So far I have never used Uber. I would probably only use it abroad in fear of getting ripped off (e.g. in Barcelona).

    By the time Uber came to Sweden there where already two or three cab apps available from the local cab companies. So I went with them instead. They are perhaps 10-20% more expensive than I Uber but at least I don’t support the asshats that run Uber. Unfortunately the drivers working for local cab companies earn really low wages though.

  4. Steve Smith says:

    I never understood how Uber, or even taxis in general, are supposed to be better for the environment. If I take a taxi to work instead of my car, it's still using a car for that duration.

    • Ham Monger says:

      The pretense is that the company matches you with a driver who is already going in approximately the same direction that you want to go, so that it's like carpooling, except you pay for it and don't know the driver and also they never had any intention of going anywhere in particular.

    • Pavel says:

      I'm going to play devil's advocate and say that even if it's a series of taxis, it's still better for the environment for everyone to use those instead of owning their own cars.

      1. You need to manufacture fewer cars, which is good.
      2. You can get rid of useless parking spots, garages, etc. in residential and urban areas.
      3. Minimizing car ownership inherently encourages people to use other means of transport - walking, biking, etc. - and the building of fewer car-dicksucky areas.

  5. k3ninho says:

    The business value versus costs (insurance, liability pay-offs etc.) for a self-driving vehicle is maximum bums per mile per (bug per) line of code per hour offline for maintenance. Of course Uber were going for public transit services once they realised the autonomy of the owned car has the liability for all the tonnes of metal they'd be moving around our roads.


  6. margaret says:

    I started to quote the following Gizmodo story and realized when I included all the good parts I'd included the entire article.

    Congratulations to Uber, the Worst Performing IPO in U.S. Stock Market History

    • James says:

      Margaret, let's start a "Uber but for public transportation" municipal bond fund which pays for Denmark-style free public transit fares and campaigns in support of them. j.mp/nofares

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