Gregory Erhardt, associate professor at the University of Kentucky, investigated the impact of ride-sharing on San Francisco´s traffic pattern during the last few years. The results showed that between 2010 – 2016 traffic congestion increased by about 60 per cent, and that ride-hailing through Uber and Lyft was responsible for more than half of that increase. The study also showed that ride-hailing apps generated as much new traffic as job and population growth combined. Uber and Lyft, however, do not agree about the cause of congestion. Instead, they claim that the study overlooks notable contributors to congestion, including increased freight and commercial deliveries, and tourism growth.
From Erhardt’s study, it seems that the ride-hailing business in San Francisco hasn’t gotten the citizens to use fewer cars. Instead of substituting trips taken by one person in their own car, a promise widely echoed by ride-hailing firms given their introduction to the mobility market, it seems that they have instead substituted trips with public transit, walking, or bike travel. Both Lyft and Uber have been touting improvements in regard to their alleged negative impact on the traffic system, for example by including public transit and micromobility options in their app alongside calls for investments in alternative mobility options. However, they have at the same time been extremely reluctant to share any of their vast troves of traffic data to researchers wanting to document the actual case of their impact.
Written by Kristina Andersson, RISE Viktoria.