Art Basel Miami Beach

Lyft's Service Debuting During Art Basel Is Just a Bus Route

Raido / Flickr
Major companies love to use Art Basel Miami Beach, a flytrap for rich people who have enough spare money to jet around the world and get so blitzed they black out and buy Basquiat paintings, as a testing ground for ideas and eye-catching publicity stunts. Last year, for example, Uber let people order sea-plane and luxury-yacht rides across Biscayne Bay.

Not to be outdone, ridesharing competitor Lyft announced its own service debuting during this year's Basel, which will begin December 7. What is this spectacular, eye-catching service? Self-driving tandem bicycles? Stretch Maybach limos that dispense free tabs of acid and help rebalance passengers' chakras?

Nope. Pretty much just a bus. Thank you, Silicon Valley.

However, the idea does sound semi-useful. According to a news release the company just sent out, Lyft will debut ArtHop, a limited-time service where dedicated drivers will take cars full of people along scheduled routes between the largest art fairs, including Pulse, Spectrum, and Art Basel itself. Lyft says the service is designed to help "ease the traffic and parking woes normally associated with Miami Art Week."

Lyft also described the service as "a shared ride that will make fixed stops along three routes between Greater Downtown Miami and Miami Beach at a low cost." If that sounds like a glorified bus, that's because it is a glorified bus, and both Uber and Lyft have been ridiculed in the past for douchily trying to pass off their ideas as something new and exciting and not just a bus service where drivers don't have labor rights.

Just last month, the Financial Times noted that Lyft and Uber have debuted bus-like services (called Lyft Shuttle and Uberhop, respectively). Though the tech companies say they can provide better public-transit-style service than the public sector can, a whole lot of people are worried about the implications of letting private, profit-obsessed companies handle public transportation systems nationwide.

Mostly, though, a lot of people think it's just really silly that Uber and Lyft seem like they're taking credit for inventing a concept that dates to the 1660s. The Guardian in July noted that the web service Citymapper had introduced “a social hyper-local multi-passenger pooled vehicle." That's Silicon Valley-speak for "bus."
It's worth noting that Miami-Dade County Public Transit shifts into high gear during Miami Art Week: This includes running Art Shuttle, a free service that takes passengers to and from Art Basel at the Miami Beach Convention Center. Many of the fairs also operate their own shuttle services. And, of course, Miami-Dade already has its own bus system. Some of its trolleys are free, but art snobs will have to stomach hanging out with us commoners for a few minutes.
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.