Is Ride-Hailing Reducing Number of Vehicles on Road?

Chart courtesy of University of California Davis’ Institute of Transportation Studies.
Chart courtesy of University of California Davis’ Institute of Transportation Studies.

How do ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft affect transportation decisions? Does ride-hailing help or hurt public transportation? Is it reducing the number of owned vehicles on the road?

A study by the University of California Davis’ Institute of Transportation Studies examined the adoption, utilization, and impacts of ride-hailing (Uber and Lyft) in the United States. The study looked at 4,000 users in seven major U.S. cities — Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco Bay area, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. — between 2014 and 2016. It included residents from both urban and suburban areas.

In major cities, 21% of adults personally use ride-hailing services and an additional 9% use ride-hailing with friends, according to the study. Nearly a quarter (24%) of surveyors in metropolitan areas uses ride-hailing services on a weekly or daily basis. The top reason that ride-hailing users will choose a ride-hailing service over driving themselves is parking, followed by avoiding driving when drinking.

Ride-hailing users who also use transit have higher personal vehicle ownership rates than those who only use transit (52% versus 46%), according to the study. A higher number of “transit only” travelers have no household vehicle (41%) compared with “transit and ride-hail” travelers (30%). The majority of ride-hailing users (91%) haven’t made any decisions about vehicle ownership since they started using ride-hailing.

After picking ride-hailing, the average net change in transit use is a 6% reduction in major cities, according to the study. Ride-hailing reduces the number of Americans who use bus services (6% reduction) and light rail services (3% reduction). With ride-hailing services, commuter rail services did increase 3% in usage.

Key takeaways from the study include:

- Ride-hailing is used regularly by urban Americans and less by those in the suburbs.

- Ride-hailing users have similar vehicle ownership rates as everyone else.

- Ride-hailing users report a net decrease in their transit use.

- About half of ride-hailing trips (49% to 61%) would have been made by walking, biking, transit, or avoided altogether.

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