How Uber and Lyft are making traffic worse.

Feb 19, 2020 | City Planning, Tech, Transportation | 0 comments

A compilation of studies show our commute may be getting longer thanks to ride-hailing companies.

The following is an excerpt from today’s episode of the Snacks Daily podcast from Robinhood.

It’s time to conclude the impact of Lyft and Uber on society. It’s been good for people who Uber and Lyft… bad for everybody else – like our moms. 

Uber has been Fantastic for one thing in particular, and that’s academic research. Everybody has some post-grad buddy writing a paper right now called The Environmental And Equity Impacts Of Transportation Network Companies On Post Urban Sub Rural Communities. So the Wall Street Journal summarized a bunch of those academic studies to figure out the impact of Uber and Lyft on society.

Uber traffic [PHOTO: Dan Gold]

The winners are basically anyone who’s Uber-ing or Lyft-ing. Uber introduced the freedom to not have to own a car, not worry about the bus line or subway schedule, and not have to pay an arm and a leg for a taxi. And then they created the whole “side-hustle economy” so you can make some fast income on this side as a driver. Not too shabby.

But these studies show that the losers are everybody else who’s not participating in Uber. So once and for all, [we’re] going to look at how Uber has impacted Society. 

Fact #1: Uber is NOT ride sharing.

Do not call Uber “ride sharing.” (There is definitely someone an Uber right now, and they’re looking at the driver and it’s very awkward). 

Carpool Kumbaya. [IMAGE: The Late Late Show with James Corden]

There is a myth that Uber is a Rideshare company, and ride-sharing is similar to carpool – fewer cars on the road, less pollution, less traffic, more… Kumbaya. But the reality is that Uber drivers aren’t SHARING the ride, they’re getting HAILED – key verb difference. And they might even be coming from 2 hours away just to do an Uber shift in city to find you, and then driving back 2 hours. There’s a lot of driving going on.

That Uber ride home I took from that New Year’s Eve wedding I went to in Nashville, Uber drivers were coming in from like, Alabama to do these rides. 

And here’s a crazy fact; 40% of the driving time happening in Uber in New York and California is with NO PASSENGER in the back seat. I guess they’re just driving out to Nashville to pick up somebody post-wedding? We’re talking a lot of empty cars on the road.

Fact #2: Uber Lyft are actually increasing the amount of driving happening over all. 

Here’s the myth… if people can rely on the rides with Uber Lyft, they’ll be less likely to go in a car and they’ll be more likely to jump on a bike or take public transportation instead. Yes I’ll take Uber or Lyft sometimes, but a lot of time they won’t take Uber and Lyft. They’ll take the bus, or the Subway, or a scooter. But the reality is that people are taking more rides overall, and that’s causing lots of pollution, and hurt public transit ridership. Here’s the scary part…

Traffic in cars moves 2.5 MPH slower, in general, after Lyft and Uber have become mainstream in a city.

Stuck in traffic. [IMAGE:]

Uber and Lyft could fix this with UberPool or Lyft Shared. Unfortunately, these services are not that good of a business for these companies, so they’re not really setting prices to incentivize carpools. 

Alright, so we’ve got two facts: 

  1. Uber and Lyft are not ride-sharing, their ride-hailing. And, 
  2. they increase the number of cars on the road, not decrease.

Fibbing about your business’ mission can actually be a successful strategy, but get this quote from Travis Kalanick, co-founder of Uber back in 2015. “If every car in San Francisco was Uber, there would be no traffic.” No joke, he said that. 

But the reality is, there’s more driving, more traffic, more pollution, more air fresheners, more unwanted bottles of water forced upon you (with Jolly Ranchers). 

You can listen to the full podcast here. And next time, instead of calling an Uber, take the subway!


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