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Ride-hailing services mean more car trips, less biking and public transit

Survey of users says 50 percent of rideshare trips wouldn’t happen at all if not for app

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University of California at Davis’s Institute of Transportation Studies released a survey last week detailing the transit habits of 4,094 ride-hailing service users in San Francisco, New York, Washington DC, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Seattle.

The study found that companies like Lyft and Uber draw customers away from public transit while increasing the number of car trips and vehicular miles in each city.

According authors Regina R. Clewlow and Gouri Shankar Mishra, 30 percent of adults in major cities use services like Lyft and Uber at least some of the time. Of those, 24 percent hail a ride at least once per week.

The study concluded that many of those trips wouldn’t happen in the first place if not for the easy access to the aforementioned ride-hailing apps.

In part, the findings note:

As compared with previous studies that have suggested shared mobility services complement transit services, we find that the substitutive versus complementary nature of ride-hailing varies greatly based on the type of transit service in question.

Directionally, based on mode substitution and ride-hailing frequency of use data, we conclude that ride-hailing is currently likely to contribute to growth in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in the major cities represented in this study.

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A few highlights of the UC Davis findings:

  • Fifteen percent of adults surveyed in target cities say they use ride-hailing apps in their own cities. Six percent say they use them only when traveling in other cities. Nine percent say they never use the apps themselves but have with friends. Sixty percent say they don’t use apps at all. And 10 percent had never heard of the services or companies.
  • Drivers who opt instead to use Lyft or Uber say they prefer ride-hailing apps because parking is either too expensive or too difficult to find. Avoiding drunk driving was the second most popular reason, followed by trips to the airport.
  • Regular use of Uber or Lyft leads to a six percent reduction in bus use and a three percent dip in light rail use; however, there’s a corresponding three percent uptick in the use of heavy-commuter rail (e.g., Caltrain).
  • The survey also reported a nine percent increase in the number of commuters who walk more after they started using ride-hailing apps.
  • The top reason people call Lyft or Uber instead of taking the bus: “Services are too slow.”
  • Perhaps most compelling: If ride-hailing apps were suddenly no longer available, 22 percent of those surveyed say they would take fewer trips; seventeen percent would walk more; seven percent would bike more; fifteen percent would use public transit more often; and only one percent would opt for more taxi use.

Readers can find a PDF of the full survey results here.