Over the past few months there have been several reports released about the state of city traffic – mostly in the US. The underlying issue of the reports is that ride-sharing systems are clogging the streets and not reducing the traffic volume as they claim.
Uber, Lyft and all the regional ride-share companies are known as Transportation Network Companies (or TNCs – got to have a three letter acronym!) and have grown very fast as more people sign up either as a passenger or as a driver. I have written about taxi services being swamped before – as part of other topics, and in many cities there are 10s of 1,000s more ride-share cars than taxis.
The research suggests that there are twice the number of ride-share miles driven than taxi journeys. One report stated that 70% of all Uber and Lyft trips are in nine major US cities with an estimated 5.7B miles driven! Only 20% of journeys in ride-share cars replace personal car usage while another 20% of ride-shares replace taxi services.
That means that 60% of all ride-share journeys were replacing other modes of transport and therefore adding cars on to the streets. A report estimated that each ride-share in US cities was only five miles long and the driver was deadheading for a further three miles. When you factor in the journeys replacing the non-vehicle travel, it is possible to see where the excess miles come from that are adding the vehicles to the streets.
To make it worse, new services such as UberPool and Lyft Line, which ironically are closer to the original intent of ride-sharing, are adding double the miles compared to personal usage of a car – and that is down to more deadheading and the extra length of each journey.
What is more interesting is that ride-sharing services haven’t reduced the desire for actual car ownership. In seven of the nine US cities that provided the data for the research, car ownership has been steadily rising! Then there is the economic divide: wealthier passengers are using Uber or Lyft to replace public transport or taxis whilst the reporting suggests that the lower income citizens were being slowed down by the extra traffic!
There has been an ongoing demand for more regulation around the ride-share systems, however the initial demands have been from their main competitor: the taxi industry. Interestingly, that industry is regulated by Governments who don’t seem to be too worried about losing licensing or regulatory revenues. Now we seeing environmentalists and others campaigning for regulation to reduce the volume of miles driven, thereby reducing emissions and fuel usage.
One idea raised, which isn’t really adding a regulation, is to adopt a tried and true way of manipulating a market: taxes. In Washington D.C., an idea has been raised to tax ride-share journeys to help fund a new metro system. My personal view is to force Uber, Lyft and others to become taxi operators in the cities that they operate in – because fundamentally that’s what they are.
The driver licencing costs alone would dramatically trim the number of cars on city streets!