Uber and Lyft are creating more traffic and congestion instead of reducing it, according to a new report

  • According to a report conducted by transportation analyst Bruce Schaller, ride hailing services like Uber and Lyft are actually making traffic worse rather than reducing it — contrary to the companies' claims.
  • Ride hailing services have caused an overall 160% increase in driving on city streets.
  • Overall ride-hailing passengers increased from 1.9 billion to 2.61 billion between 2016 and 2017 — that's a 37% increase.

More people are choosing ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft — passengers using those services increased 37% from 1.9 billion to 2.61 billion total people between 2016 and 2017 — but one research analyst says this is making traffic worse, not better, contrary to what ride-hailing companies say. 

Although they're often advertised as alternatives to personal car usage and as traffic reducers, ride-hailing services are only contributing to more traffic and congestion instead of reducing it, according to research by transportation analyst Bruce Schaller.

The research was mostly centered on ride-hailing services in dense cities, as people in suburban areas with lower populations are more likely to take a cab. However, Schaller says apps like Uber and Lyft added 5.7 billion miles of driving in the most populated cities, adding up to an overall 160% increase in driving on city streets. Drivers for ride-hailing companies spend much of their time without a passenger, which means more overall added mileage when their backseat is empty or when they're driving to pick up a new passenger. 

The research also suggests that ride hailing isn't a replacement for public transportation or car ownership. Sixty percent of Uber and Lyft users in cities would have taken public transportation instead of hailing a ride if it was available to their destination, while the other 40% would have used their car or a taxi.

In addition, car owners don't feel the need to get rid of their car and rely on ride hailing — they tend to use the service when parking is difficult or when they plan on drinking. 

While ride-hailing services only continue to grow, Schaller suggests the solution is public policy and regulation.

"Trip fees, congestion pricing, bus lanes and traffic signal timing can help cities manage current congestion," Schaller says in the report.

Schaller says policymakers should focus on "limiting low-occupancy vehicles, increasing passenger occupancy ... changing commercial vehicle operations, and ensuring frequent and reliable bus and rail service." 

Autonomous vehicles aren't a solution either in Schaller's eyes, and he says the addition of self-driving cars to the road will only result in even more traffic. 

Read Schaller's full report here.

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