Author David Zipper
I have a confession to make. I’m not proud of it, but my own laziness often drives my transportation decisions when I’m in a new city.
Case in point: I recently flew into Austin’s airport and needed to get downtown. I had a couple of smart cards in my wallet and a few transit apps on my iPhone, but none would get me anywhere in Austin. If I wanted to use public transit—something I generally like to do—I’d have to figure out how to buy a ticket for the local Capital Metro system. An advertisement in the airport invited me to download the Capital Metro app, but my lazy brain wasn’t having it. “Nope,” it said. “Too much of a hassle. Just grab a Lyft; the app is already on your phone.” And so I did.
The seamless convenience of private mobility services like ride hail is a wonderful thing when you travel. If you think about it, even taxis have interoperable payments across cities: you can use a single credit card (or cash) to pay any taxi. But if you want to use public transit when you’re on a trip, you’ll need to get a new app or a smart card that becomes as useless as a foreign currency when you return home.
Come to think of it, is there any product or service other than public transportation that requires you to manage a new way to pay when traveling to a different American city?