D.C.-based ridesharing company Split will end its passenger service next week, the company announced in a blog post Tuesday. The crowded marketplace is partly to blame.
The company, whose 100 drivers had shuttled tens of thousands on trips in the District, said it will discontinue service and turn its attention to technology, where it can “refocus our efforts on the next generation of transportation challenges.”
The news came the same month Split announced an expansion to D.C.’s Ivy City neighborhood. With Metro’s SafeTrack rebuilding program, which resulted in service disruptions across the region, Split was banking on more local customers adopting its platform — and demand did increase, CEO Ario Keshani said in an interview.
But he admitted the local ride-hailing market was saturated, prompting a change in thinking. Uber and Lyft have both offered steep discounts during SafeTrack, posing a problems for smaller companies like Split looking to make a dent in the industry.
Split had billed itself as a low-cost alternative to the existing services. Its ride-hailing service will cease Oct. 3.
“We realize there’s a saturation and actually a highly-subsidized saturation in that space,” Keshani said of the ride-hailing market. But he stopped short of saying Split’s decision to discontinue passenger service was a product of Uber and Lyft’s discounts.
“I mean, look, nothing happens in a vacuum,” he said. “We try to make our decisions as a company based on what we think we’re best able to accomplish and where we can have the most impact.”
Right now, he says, Split is best positioned to use its data, and its algorithmic platform, to attempt to solve traffic problems faced by cities like D.C. That means severing ties with its 100 drivers, but retaining its 22 staffers — split between D.C. and Finland. TransDev, which had backed Split through an $11 million investment in November 2014, will offer separate employment opportunities to the 100 drivers, who are independent contractors, Keshani said.
Similar to the ride-splitting options uberPOOL and Lyft Line, Split offered shared rides in the District for as little as $3 — with a $2 base fare and an additional $1 per mile.
“We’ve got our task ahead of us,” Keshani said in May, with SafeTrack repairs looming. “I can’t think of any other situation like this where there’s been such a potentially massive disruption.”
Split said its 18-month experience in the ride-hailing market gleaned important lessons on solving traffic problems.
Here’s what it said in a company blog post announcing the move:
Running a successful shared ride service has given us a deeper understanding of the array of transportation obstacles that cities, businesses, and residents face. By leveraging our innovative technology and the learnings of the past five years, Split is ready to move efficient shared mobility forward in new ways.
The firm also touted its accomplishments in the region since launching here in May 2015. Split had bolstered its ridership by nearly 30 percent per month, on average, and grown its coverage area to encompass 24 square miles. One of its more significant expansions came in November, when service was added to three neighborhoods at once: Glover Park, Woodley Park and the area surrounding Catholic University.
Split had touted itself as a community-based alternative to the industry bigwigs. It operated based on dedicated pick-up and drop-off zones (usually no more than a block away from the origin or destination), rather than in a door-to-door format. And it pledged to compensate drivers fairly.
“We believe that they should make a good wage, a good income,” Keshani said in a November interview. “They shouldn’t be living, working like crazy just so they can make enough money to barely put food on the table.”
Transit observers and users (including some right here at The Washington Post) mourned Split’s loss on social media Tuesday.
— Ashley Nichols (@irisheyesacn) September 27, 2016
— Greg Rogers (@gregoryrrogers) September 27, 2016