Do transportation network companies increase or decrease transit ridership? Empirical evidence from San Francisco

Do transportation network companies increase or decrease transit ridership? Empirical evidence from San Francisco

Transportation network companies (TNCs), such as Uber and Lyft, have been hypothesized to both complement and compete with public transit. Existing research on the topic is limited by a lack of detailed data on the timing and location of TNC trips. This study overcomes that limitation by using data scraped from the Application Programming Interfaces of two TNCs, combined with Automated Passenger Count data on transit use and other supporting data. Using a panel data model of the change in bus ridership in San Francisco between 2010 and 2015, and confirming the result with a separate time-series model, we find that TNCs are responsible for a net ridership decline of about 10%, offsetting net gains from other factors such as service increases and population growth. We do not find a statistically significant effect on light rail ridership. Cities and transit agencies should recognize the transit-competitive nature of TNCs as they plan, regulate and operate their transportation systems.

Key findings

   The panel model analysis showed bus ridership in 2015 is 8.6% lower than expected given changes in control factors, and this net difference is highest in the locations and at times of-day with more TNC pick-ups and drop-offs.

   TNCs decrease transit ridership. The results of a separate regression on time-series model show bus ridership in 2015 is 10.8% lower than expected given control factor changes.

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