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How Much Traffic Do Uber and Lyft Cause?
When ride-hailing services stormed into cities in the 2010s they offered a grand utopian promise: By tapping into America’s vast reservoir of idle vehicles, on-demand, app-based rides would reduce the need for personal car ownership and ultimately remove cars from the road. But now, less than a decade into this experiment, the industry is ‘fessing up. The ride-hailing giants released a joint analysis showing that their vehicles are responsible for significant portions of VMT in six major urban centers. Still, Uber and Lyft’s combined share is still vastly outstripped by personal vehicles.
Led by the respected transportation consultancy Fehr & Peers, the analysis provides a high-level view of the combined mileage contributions from Uber and Lyft, as a share of overall VMT, over a recent month in the Boston, Chicago, L.A., San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. areas. Results are shown at the level of the larger metropolitan landscape, which includes both the central city and its surrounding suburbs, as well as the level of the core county that contains the city’s most concentrated homes and jobs.
The new findings show that Uber and Lyft account for just 1-3 percent of total VMT in the larger metropolitan regions surrounding the six cities. But they have a far heavier traffic impact in core urban areas: In San Francisco County, Uber and Lyft make up as much as 13.4 percent of all vehicle-miles. In Boston, it’s 8 percent; in Washington, D.C., it’s 7.2 percent.
On average, between the six cities, just 54 to 62 percent of the vehicle miles traveled by Lyfts and Ubers were with a rider in tow. A third of these miles involve drivers slogging around in between passengers (“deadheading,” in taxi-driver argot); 9 to 10 percent are drivers on their way to a pickup.
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