Before Uber and Lyft began racing furiously towards the country’s first autonomous vehicle fleet, they both dabbled in this little thing called ride-hailing. Still being the core business for both companies, Uber and Lyft have continued to grow their companies as ride-hailing has especially grown popular in urban areas.
Long-term, Lyft sees ride-hailing – and, specifically, ride-sharing – as transformative to public transit. Last year, the company’s president and co-founder John Zimmer predicted that the ownership of passenger vehicles would go the way of the dinosaur in urban areas, possibly as soon as 2025. Among the benefits? A world with less parking, less pollution and, of course, less traffic.
It’s interesting, then, that CNN Tech is reporting that companies like Uber and Lyft are actually creating MORE traffic in big cities as their popularity increases. A study by UC Davis suggests that ride-hailing services are increasing congestion because much of the uptick in use is coming from folks who would have walked, rode a bike, or taken public transit instead of catching a ride. In fact, the research says public transit use decreased by an average of 6% by the those in the study who were now regularly ride-hailing.
The study warns that this continued increase in passenger vehicle traffic will place further strain on roads, especially in already crowded cities like Boston, Chicago, New York, and LA. A Lyft spokesperson said that besides its work on decreasing single vehicle occupancy – like incentivizing ride sharing – the company is also working with transit agencies to improve efficiency and affordability.
Transportation consultant Bruce Schaller told CNN that either the public transit system would be motivated to improve so it can compete with ride-hailing’s convenience factor, or the public will see less of a need for buses, subways, and rail - further compounding the traffic nightmare.