The omnipresent but consistently unprofitable rideshare goliaths Uber and Lyft have long argued that they create less traffic, but they’re not willing to share much data on the topic. So some academics have gone out and done the research themselves. And the Associated Press reports they found that Uber and Lyft are adding to congestion, particularly by adding more cars on the streets during surge pricing hours.
“The emerging consensus is that ride-sharing [is] increasing congestion,” Northeastern University professor of computer science Christo Wilson told the AP.
The full report is entitled Fare Choices: A Survey of Ride-Hailing Passengers in Metro Boston. And yes, the study was conducted in Boston, monitoring about a thousand ride-hailers in the Boston area during four weeks of late 2017. But their findings may resonate to Bay Area Uber and Lyft commuters too.
“The services are justifiably popular, their growing use may result in negative outcomes for traffic congestion, transit use, and active transportation,” the study concludes. “When asked how they would have made their current trip if ride-hailing hadn’t been an option, 12 percent said they would have walked or biked, and over two-fifths (42 percent) of respondents said they would have otherwise taken transit,”
In other words, 54 percent of rideshare customers would be walking, biking, or using public transit if Uber and Lyft were not options.
In San Francisco, a Sept. 2017 police analysis found that Uber and Lyft were responsible for two-thirds of congestion-related traffic violations downtown.
For their part, Lyft spokesperson Adrian Durbin told the AP, “Lyft is focused on making personal car ownership optional by getting more people to share a ride, helping to reduce car ownership, and partnering with public transportation.”
And Uber spokesperson Alix Anfang said, “Uber’s long-term goal is to end the reliance on personal vehicles and allow a mix of public transportation and services like Uber.”
Neither of those responses really addresses the traffic or congestion issue. In fact, Uber could be adding more vans to congested Bay Area roads. Last week they rolled out a new service called Uber Express Pool that mimics public transportation. CNN described it as “like a minibus with cheaper rides.”