Uber and Lyft May Overwhelm American Streets

July 30, 2018


“Transportation Network Companies” = TNC, taking over American streets


Contrary to the story Uber, Lyft, and their peers like to tell, ride-hailing services are not reducing traffic in American cities. Nor will they, even if they meet their goals for converting solo passenger trips to shared rides, according to new research from transportation analyst Bruce Schaller.

While ride-hailing companies add options for people to get around without owning a personal car, Schaller shows that the overall effect of their growth has been to jam more motor vehicle traffic onto crowded city streets. Also known as transportation network companies, or TNCs, Uber and Lyft haven’t just supplanted taxis, they’ve more than tripled total for-hire vehicle mileage in the span of a few short years.

Most of this mileage is concentrated in the nation’s largest, densest cities, where TNCs compete with transit more than personal cars. Fully 70 percent of Uber and Lyft trips are in nine major metropolitan areas, adding 5.7 billion vehicle miles annually.

If cities don’t take steps to curb car traffic and prioritize spatially efficient modes like transit and cycling, Schaller warns, Uber and Lyft will continue to exacerbate urban traffic congestion and weaken surface transit systems.

Schaller’s report, The New Automobility [PDF], augments previous researchwith newly available TNC trip data and thousands of interviews from the National Household Travel Survey.

The main conclusion is that TNCs are bound to generate more car traffic in cities for two reasons: They mostly draw passengers who wouldn’t have otherwise used a car, and each TNC trip includes significant mileage with no passenger.

Travel surveys consistently reveal that only about 20 percent of TNC trips replace personal car trips. Another 20 percent replace traditional taxi services. The bulk of TNC trips — 60 percent — either replace transit, biking, and walking, or would not have been made without the availability of TNCs.

Uber and Lyft have pivoted to emphasize the growth of their shared-trip services like UberPOOL and Lyft Line, but Schaller demonstrates that even under the most optimistic scenarios for shared-ride adoption, the net effect of the services is to generate more traffic than a scenario in which they did not exist.

Working against the efficiency of Uber and Lyft is the large proportion of mileage without a paying passenger in the vehicle. For a typical passenger trip of 5.2 miles, a TNC driver travels three miles waiting to get pinged and then going to pick up the fare.

Factor in all the Uber and Lyft trips that are substituting for transit and bicycling, not personal car travel, and the net effect of TNCs — even if half the trips are pooled — is to more than double the motor vehicle mileage that the same set of trips would have generated if TNCs were not available.

CBS Chicago:

The city says it’s not protecting rideshare companies and, after months of wrangling, it finally shared data on “active” rideshare vehicles, or vehicles that completed at least four rides a month.

It showed the number increasing from 40,000 in December 2015, to 60,000 in December 2016 and nearly 69,000 in December 2017.

“The only reason you have a higher number of vehicles coming into the fold is because the consumers are requesting the ride,” said Rosa Escareno, who is the head of the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection. “In terms of the congestion on the road, it requires a greater investigation.”

And she says the city is willing to study it and figure out solutions. But, the fact remains, drivers are frustrated. With buses and bike lanes crisscrossing the city now, congestion is heavy and we still don’t know how much ridesharing is contributing to the problem.

Beale, who supports taxi drivers, has no doubts.

“You have so many more people out on the street with that Uber and Lyft tag in the window, and they’re clogging up our streets because of the amount of traffic.”


8 Responses to “Uber and Lyft May Overwhelm American Streets”

  1. Keith McClary Says:

    Cities Seek Deliverance From the E-Commerce Boom
    “It’s the flip-side to the ‘retail apocalypse:’ A siege of delivery trucks is threatening to choke cities with traffic.”

    Amazon contract delivery trucks eat up parking, sidewalks, hurt shops
    “They park, and then about 10 other guys show up and start setting up cones and sorting packages on the street. Sometimes they do it under their tents. Then they spread out and deliver to [online] customers in the area pushing a small four-wheel truck”

  2. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    “They park, and then about 10 other guys show up and start setting up cones and sorting packages on the street. Sometimes they do it under their tents. ”

    How is this not grossly illegal? Do they pay the cities for permits? That sounds almost worse than food trucks crowding the curbs.

  3. indy222 Says:

    Jevons’ Revenge strikes again. Trying to contain Growth is like trying to herd cats with all the elegant reasoning of an intelligent environmentalist. People will do what they can afford to do, and all they can afford, and then some.

    It’s what it DOES! It’s ALL it DOES! (Reese- “The Terminator”)

  4. There are huge benefits to TNCs; that’s why they are growing so fast. More growth will occur when/if autonomous rides are available. Other benefits are less cars owned , less home garage space needed, less work parking space needed. I hope we respect peoples wishes and do not restrict TNCs.

    • ” Other benefits are less cars owned , less home garage space needed, less work parking space needed”
      Have you got references backing up those claims?

      • dumboldguy Says:

        Those claims are actually sort of self-evident to some degree, but the so-called “benefits” accrue only to those who can afford them, the “get yours first and get more of it” rich, not the average person in the cities or the poor around the world who then have to live in a worsening local pr global environment.

        (And I like relating human nature to the The Terminator and Growth—-kudos to indy)

        • Well – no they aren’t self evident. There will be less cars owned only if the people can perform all their journeys by other means e.g. TNCs etc. My experience is (and what the article implies) that TNCs are mainly used for short urban journeys which would have previously been done via public transport, walking or bike etc. – or maybe not even happened at all. Households may still be dependent on private cars for longer journeys so less cars owned and less home garage space does not automatically follow. Similar applies to work parking spaces. Not many can afford a taxi to work and back.

  5. […] via Uber and Lyft May Overwhelm American Streets — Climate Denial Crock of the Week […]

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