Ikea Provides Private Transportation, Santiago-Style


[photo: flickr: moriah]

In a perfect tie-in to yesterday’s EconTalk podcast on public transportation, Ikea’s new Brooklyn store provides free bus and ferry service to locations in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Not only is it free, but it’s nicer than the $2/ride public alternative.

Most interestingly, neighbors of the new store in the Red Hook neighborhood are using the buses to commute to work and get around town. When I first heard of this I thought riders would have to show a receipt or prove they are a customer, but Ikea is happy to provide this service to anyone! What a great neighbor…

New York Daily News – Commuters using Ikea shuttle bus to bypass MTA routes

The posh, coach-style shuttle buses, equipped with footrests, reading lights and music, are quickly becoming popular with travelers tired of shelling out $2 for overcrowded – and, by comparison, uncomfortable – city buses.

“It’s like a free car service,” said Bianca Colon, 19, who works at a summer program at Public School 27 on Huntington St. in Red Hook, and takes the bus from downtown Brooklyn near her home. “It takes us straight downtown and I don’t have to wait for the bus to stop every block to let people on and off.”

“It’s such a nice ride, I’d almost be happy to pay for it,” said Steve Riley, 40, who lives in Park Slope, takes the Ikea bus and then transfers to the Ikea water taxi for his job in SoHo. “It was so very different from the miserable experience of the subway and I got to see all four of the waterfalls.”

Brooklyn News found last week that only eight of 19 passengers on the first shuttle ride entered Ikea – and two of them were employees.

“I’d say before one o’clock, about half the riders from Smith and Ninth Sts. don’t even go into Ikea,” said a bus driver, who added many riders are going to a local methodone clinic for treatment.

Ikea had kind words for those using the free transportation. “We are thrilled that we are providing free transit options for the people of New York to come to Ikea and to come to Red Hook,” said Ikea spokesman Joseph Roth. “We support mass transit, and if people are using our services and not going to Ikea, that’s fine with us as well.”

Could Ikea’s popular bus service divert enough commuters away from public transportation to cause it to be banned? Or could it’s popularity help make the case how for-profit transportation could provide superior transportation service in New York, as it had in Santiago before the city takeover?
How much will the superior new transportation option incentivize people to move to previously transit-starved Red Hook? If so, for how long will Ikea continue to provide this service?

Also: Curbed – Forget the B61, Red Hook Now Has ‘Free Car Service’

  • http://rationalitate.blogspot.com Rationalitate

    I’m sure Ikea would love to charge those people who want to pay, but I’d bet anything that it would be illegal.

  • http://rationalitate.blogspot.com Stephen Smith

    I’m sure Ikea would love to charge those people who want to pay, but I’d bet anything that it would be illegal.

  • http://marketurbanism.com MarketUrbanism

    or subject to a big surcharge

  • http://marketurbanism.com Market Urbanism

    or subject to a big surcharge

  • Wait What?

    This is awesome and it is blowing my mind. You call this “for-profit transportation” but is it really? Why is it free? Does it accomplish advertising any better than the stupid glass furniture trucks they drive around town? If the law were the only thing preventing them from charging, why do they bother driving at all? What are they getting out of this? Someone help me out here…

  • Wait What?

    This is awesome and it is blowing my mind. You call this “for-profit transportation” but is it really? Why is it free? Does it accomplish advertising any better than the stupid glass furniture trucks they drive around town? If the law were the only thing preventing them from charging, why do they bother driving at all? What are they getting out of this? Someone help me out here…

  • http://marketurbanism.com MarketUrbanism

    The transportation itself isn’t “for profit” since they aren’t charging for the ride. However, by providing transportation, it brings more customers to the stores, which they hope will boost sales.

    Ikea needs large pieces of land for it’s stores, and there aren’t many large pieces of land in New York City. So, they chose a part of Brooklyn where there are large pieces of land available.

    This area of Brooklyn, called Red Hook, is very close to the expressway, but not very accessible to public transportation. Since most of Ikea’s target customers (at least in NYC) use public transportation, they decided it makes sense to provide buses to encourage customers to shop at their store. I’m sure it is worth it for Ikea. Plus, as you noted, it doubles as a mobile advertisement. NYC is probably the only place in the US where it makes economic sense to do this on such a large scale.

    If they charged, I don’t think they would charge Ikea customers very much. But, it may be profitable to charge non-customers if it’s so popular. I’m not sure if there is a law that prevents them from charging, but I’m willing to bet that they would have to pay some huge surcharge like the Supper Shuttles from the airport.

  • http://marketurbanism.com Market Urbanism

    The transportation itself isn’t “for profit” since they aren’t charging for the ride. However, by providing transportation, it brings more customers to the stores, which they hope will boost sales.

    Ikea needs large pieces of land for it’s stores, and there aren’t many large pieces of land in New York City. So, they chose a part of Brooklyn where there are large pieces of land available.

    This area of Brooklyn, called Red Hook, is very close to the expressway, but not very accessible to public transportation. Since most of Ikea’s target customers (at least in NYC) use public transportation, they decided it makes sense to provide buses to encourage customers to shop at their store. I’m sure it is worth it for Ikea. Plus, as you noted, it doubles as a mobile advertisement. NYC is probably the only place in the US where it makes economic sense to do this on such a large scale.

    If they charged, I don’t think they would charge Ikea customers very much. But, it may be profitable to charge non-customers if it’s so popular. I’m not sure if there is a law that prevents them from charging, but I’m willing to bet that they would have to pay some huge surcharge like the Supper Shuttles from the airport.