Uber says it loves public transport and has the data to prove it

On-demand car service Uber published a blog post on Tuesday calling for Boston (and presumably all large cities) to increase late-night public transportation options. The post displays weekend ridership data from certain areas that shows a decrease in Uber rides after the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority began testing in March rail service that runs until 2:30 a.m. — 30 minutes after Boston bars close.
The effect seems to be city-wide, but is most prominent in areas with more public transportation options. Uber’s take on this data, according to the blog, is that “late night MBTA service should be extended past its initial pilot period of one year. It’s a critical component of late night Boston, and it makes the city – and all of the other transportation options, as well as businesses and residential areas in the Boston ecosystem – that much better.”
Increased mass-transit ridership is certainly better for the city’s coffers and businesses, and is probably good for Uber’s public relations if not directly for its bottom line. As the blog notes, a decrease in demand around bar-close time will mean less surge pricing and happier riders. And presenting Uber as just one piece of a greater transportation ecosystem — and a piece that’s affected significantly its peers, no less — makes it seem less like the unregulated, unchecked pariah that some like to paint it as.
There’s no word on how extended train service has affected taxi ridership, although the MBTA has released a trove of transit data, as part of a hackathon, that should help answer that question.
Regardless how you choose to interpret its data, though, Uber certainly appears to see data as an important arrow in its quiver as it fights for legitimacy in cities around the world. The Boston mass-transit data comes a few months after Uber released a handful of analyses highlighting (arguably) that it’s providing a great service in Chicago, even in low-income areas, and has even resulted in a decrease in taxi cab crime — a claim that some (at least to me and on Twitter) dispute.
Uber’s app collects detailed data about where people are riding and how long it takes, and the company is using that not just to improve its service but also, where possible, to argue that it’s better for everyone if cities work with Uber rather try to shut it down.