It’s widely believed that the use of ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft would prompt people to drive less. However, a recent study suggests that such services may actually lead to more miles on the road and less usage of the more-efficient public transport.
The ride-sharing services may be decreasing the number of miles users drive themselves, but they have actually increased the total miles driven in cities, according to recent research released by the University of California, Davis.
It’s estimated that these services have attracted more than 250 million users in the first five years since their launch. This has posed a challenge for city planners as there is limited information and data about how these services affect transportation decisions and travel patterns.
For example, when, where and how users use these services? How to coordinate with public transit and take them into account in the city’s overall transport planning?
The report also noted that ridesharing has not only reduced the use of public transit, but also put pressure on car rental companies. More than half the respondents said they dropped their memberships of rental firms. Twenty-three percent cited use of ride-hailing services as the top reason for the decision.
Conventional wisdom holds that ridesharing will save energy, reduce traffic jam and air pollution.
But researchers believe that ridesharing may help improve traffic only if there is proper regulation and communication. Instead, if policy makers, public transit agencies, and ride-hailing operators fail to cooperate with each other, it’s difficult to reap the expected benefits.
Also, the report suggests that public transit should offer discounts or other incentives to encourage more people to use a mixture of public transportation and ride-sharing services. In other words, we should aim for the ride-sharing services to complement public transportation and not to replace it.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct 17
Translation by Julie Zhu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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