As much as rideshare was heralded as solving many city transportation problems, it seems like now they’re just causing more problems. More cars = more traffic – and now studies are proving this to be true. Unfortunately, it goes beyond just traffic – as ridesharing expands into cities, people are starting to bypass expensive ambulances in favor cheaper Uber or Lyft. What does this all mean for drivers? Senior RSG contributor John Ince covers these thorny questions in this week’s round up.
Studies are increasingly clear: Uber, Lyft congest cities [ABC News]
Sum and Substance: One promise of ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft was fewer cars clogging city streets. But studies suggest the opposite: that ride-hailing companies are pulling riders off buses, subways, bicycles and their own feet and putting them in cars instead. And in what could be a new wrinkle, a service by Uber called Express Pool now is seen as directly competing with mass transit.
Uber and Lyft argue that in Boston, for instance, they complement public transit by connecting riders to hubs like Logan Airport and South Station. But they have not released their own specific data about rides, leaving studies up to outside researchers. And the impact of all those cars is becoming clear, said Christo Wilson, a professor of computer science at Boston’s Northeastern University, who has looked at Uber’s practice of surge pricing during heavy volume.
“The emerging consensus is that ride-sharing (is) increasing congestion,” Wilson said.
One study included surveys of 944 ride-hailing users over four weeks in late 2017 in the Boston area. Nearly six in 10 said they would have used public transportation, walked, biked or skipped the trip if the ride-hailing apps weren’t available. The report also found many riders aren’t using hailed rides to connect to a subway or bus line, but instead as a separate mode of transit, said Alison Felix, one of the report’s authors….
In San Francisco, a study released in June found that on a typical weekday, ride-hailing drivers make more than 170,000 vehicle trips, about 12 times the number of taxi trips, and that the trips are concentrated in the densest and most congested parts of the city.
And a survey released in October of more than 4,000 adults in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle and Washington, D.C., also concluded that 49 to 61 percent of ride-hailing trips would have not been made at all — or instead by walking, biking or public transit — if the option didn’t exist.
The Boston study found that the main reason people opted for ride-hailing was speed. Even those with a public transit pass would drop it for ride-hailing despite the higher cost.
My Take: Why am I not surprised by these studies? When I drive in San Francisco, it seems like the streets are flooded by cars with Uber or Lyft signs in the window. This is yet another aspect of the rideshare revolution that was never very well thought through.
History has somehow exposed TK’s deception. Imagine the gall it took to boldly make a statement like, “We envision a world where there’s no more traffic in Boston in five years.”
What Can Uber Teach Us About the Gender Pay Gap? [Freakonomics Podcast]
Sum and Substance: A new study using data from Uber shows that experience on the platform is a big factor in driver earnings. It also shows that 65 percent of male drivers quit the platform after six months — versus 77 percent of females.
Our latest Freakonomics Radioepisode is called “What Can Uber Teach Us About the Gender Pay Gap?” The gig economy offers the ultimate flexibility to set your own hours. That’s why economists thought it would help eliminate the gender pay gap. A new study, using data from over a million Uber drivers, finds the story isn’t so simple.
My Take: The gender issue with drivers is real. Not only do female drivers make less money than male drivers, but they’re also taking a big personal risk every time they get behind the wheel and turn on the app. If you’re looking for a more nuanced overview of this study, check out Christian Perea’s excellent analysis (including better explanations of why women overall earn less).
If you’re looking for even more information on rideshare drivers, take a look at our survey and analysis on rideshare drivers and the gig economy here.
Passengers Who Call Uber Instead Of An Ambulance Put Drivers At Risk [Buzzfeed]
Sum and Substance: Mike Fish was driving for Uber 10 minutes outside of Boston when he picked up a second passenger in his Uber Pool who, he said, seemed “out of it, drowsy — almost sedated.” When the drowsy passenger asked him if Boston’s Mass General hospital was the nearest emergency room, “that set off a red flag,” Fish told BuzzFeed News. “I said, ‘Do you need the ER?’ He said yes. It came out that, over the last few days, he’d been passing out and losing consciousness.”
But instead of calling an ambulance to get the urgent medical attention he needed, the sick passenger called an Uber Pool. The shared ride would save him a few bucks, but it meant he’d have to wait for Fish to drop off the first passenger before he’d get to the ER. “I was a little nervous,” Fish said. “I didn’t know what was going to happen.”…
A recent (yet to be peer-reviewed) study found that, after Uber enters new markets, the rates of ambulance rides typically go down, meaning fewer people call professionals in favor of the cheaper option… This money-saving tactic might make sense for people in noncritical condition, but it puts ride-hail drivers in an uncomfortable position. They’re forced to choose between assuming potential legal liability if something goes wrong, or dealing with a sense of guilt and the fear of getting a lower rating if they decline or cancel the ride….
My Take: I’ve now had several visits to ER and there’s something very unsettling about this trend. Uber drivers are not trained for this kind of thing. One time, the woman actually got in my car with a bleeding wrist that she had just slit.
Everything worked out fine, but what if something else had happened? Would I have been liable? Would Uber have been liable? Somehow these questions need to be addressed.
Readers, what do you think of this week’s round up?
-John @ RSG