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Uber and Lyft may actually be adding to the traffic problem


Gubin Yury | Shutterstock

Zelda Caldwell - published on 10/19/17

The success of ride-hailing services doesn’t mean there are fewer cars on the road.
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With seemingly everyone taking Ubers and Lyfts these days you would think that there would be fewer cars on the road, right? Wrong. According to a recent multi-city study by researchers at the University of California Davis, ride-hailing companies might actually be adding more cars to the road, an article in Wired reports. For one, people who use these apps to get around aren’t necessarily getting rid of their personal vehicles. A whopping 91 percent of ride-hailing service users still have cars.

And secondly, Uber and Lyft might actually be encouraging people to make more trips by car. The study found that 49 to 61 percent of ride-hailing trips wouldn’t have been made if those services didn’t exist.

“It doesn’t matter who owns the vehicle,” Regina Clewlow, a transportation researcher with UC Davis told Wired. “It matters how many miles are driven on the road. So my swapping out a trip that I would have driven myself for a trip that I’m riding in is still the same number of miles.”

Is there any chance that ride-hailing services will find a way to make their undeniable convenience a virtue? The article points out that there are ways to make ride-hailing more eco-friendly, but whether they will be popular with ride-hailers is another question.

If Uber and Lyft were to raise prices in high-traffic zones, for instance, that would make their rides less popular, thus decreasing traffic. Increasing the number of UberPOOL and Lyft Line cars that encourage riders going in the same direction to ride together would also cut down on the number of cars on the road.

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