Are Uber and Lyft making traffic worse?

Uber to run annual background checks on drivers to increase safety

Nowadays it’s not a problem for a passenger to find a ride in any city – ride-hailing apps are near at hand. This makes passengers’ life much easier. But according to a new report from Schaller Consulting, Uber and Lyft are also making traffic worse.

The author of the report, Bruce Schaller, writes that these transportation network companies (TNCs) do not actually reduce personal car ownership. Instead, the report says that users mostly turn to TNCs, so they do not need to look for parking when they get out, or they do not need to worry about driving and drinking simultaneously.

“Shared rides add to traffic because most users switch from non-auto modes,” the report said. “In addition, there is added mileage between trips as drivers wait for the next dispatch and then drive to a pick-up location. Finally, in even a shared ride, some of the trip involves just one passenger (e.g., between the first and second pick-up).”

The main statement in the quote above is “non-auto modes.” According to the report, 60% of ride-sharing users in “large, dense cities” would have just taken public transport, biked, or walked if they didn’t have access to the ride-hailing services. The remaining 40% would have rather taken their personal car or a traditional taxi instead of walking.

For the report, Bruce Schaller tooked the data for such large cities as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Washington, Miami, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Seattle. TNCs added 5.7 billion miles of driving in these areas, the report found.

At the same time, Uber published a newly released study by the Economic Development Research Group (EDR Group) that takes a closer look at Uber’s economic impact in the United States and also measures Uber’s value-add to the lives of riders and drivers. Some unique insights and big numbers from EDR Group’s study on Uber’s economic impact:

  • Uber supports $17 billion of Gross Domestic Product in the U.S. per year during the study period. The net economic value-add to drivers is $5.7 billion annually
  • 80% of drivers cite the importance of schedule flexibility that the Uber app offers
  • 23% of drivers nationwide were unemployed prior to driving with Uber
  • 11.6% of Uber trips in United States are taken by out-of-town visitors. And 26.7% of visitors report spending more during their trip because Uber enabled them to visit additional locations
  • 14% of Uber trips in the United States allowed riders to visit destinations they could not access without Uber
  • Most of Uber’s driver partners report earning considerably more money than they were earning before they started driving.

In general, EDR Group’s study showed that, in addition to contributing to the overall economy of the U.S., Uber adds significant and measurable value to people’s lives. Is a traffic problem such a disaster as it looks like? No, benefits from Uber outweigh its harm. Do you think that ride-hailing apps are really causing a lot of traffic problems? What would you do for living if all of the ride-sharing services disappeared? 

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