A new report analysing the effect of ride-hailing solutions such as Uber or Lyft suggests that their introduction has not necessarily made congestion worse and has highlighted the need for public transport services to be delivered better.
Wired Magazine is quoting research by America’s National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine and the Shared Use Mobility Centre, which it says shines more light on how traveling around cities works today. It says researchers at the Shared Use Mobility Centre “pored over” data provided by an unnamed ride-hailing company—maybe Uber or Lyft, staying anonymous for competitive reasons—plus a 2015 survey of 4,500 car-share, bike-share, and transit users, plus newly released numbers from four transit agencies’ surveys of their own riders and says their is that the picture is still blurry, and definitely very complicated.
“So no, Uber isn’t single handedly wrecking your city commute. (It’s not always the bad guy),” says Wired. “And transit agencies aren’t always working the way they should, providing frequent, reliable, or fast enough service to keep those with higher incomes away from the siren call of traffic-creating cars.”
“This study says what every study says: The transit agencies should be very concerned,” Wired quotes Bruce Schaller, a former New York City traffic and planning commissioner who now runs his own consultancy. “From a transit agency standpoint, it’s a clarion call that they have to do better.”
Wired says the researchers also found, unsurprisingly, that most app riders are taking short-ish trips around cities’ downtown cores, providing some of the most detailed data on ride-hailing travel yet. “The most popular times for these trips are weekend evenings. And yes, the majority of ride-hail activity is happening in zip codes with more white, young, and higher income households, where residents are less likely to own cars at all. (They did find many high-use areas with majority black or Hispanic in each of the five cities studied.) This should give some agencies pause before collaborating with these private services—can they serve all areas equitably, regardless of income level?” it says.
And the report adds that there is a need for the private companies to share their data. “One of the big things that transit agencies and city planners would need to gain an understanding of how [web-based transportation companies] are impacting our cities is publicly available data,” says Regina Clewlow, a UC Davis transportation researcher who also runs her own urban mobility data startup. More detailed numbers on passenger pickups and drop-offs could give cities hints as to where they need transit service, and where they need to run it more frequently.