A few months back, a study by Denver-based researcher Dr. Alejandro Henao found results suggesting that “ride-hailing adds a significant amount of VMT (+83.5%) to the system when accounting for dead-heading, induced travel, and substitution of more sustainable modes.“(https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/c7a0b1_3f9ac82d761c4a87ba9e17b21cf7757c.pdf)
The data for that study were collected by Dr. Henao by signing up to drive for Lyft and Uber and then recording all sorts of information about the routes, the time between routes, and the people hailing the ride.
It was apparently a pretty fruitful 14 weeks of driving for Henao. After he picked passengers up, he asked them to complete a survey about their vehicle ownership and motivations for hailing a ride. After dropping off the passenger, he looked for a parking spot near their destination, noting the time it took to find one and estimating the time cruising and walking that the Lyft ride saved the passenger. Last month a companion study using that data was published in The Journal of Transportation and Land Use titled “The Impact of ride hailing on parking (and vice versa).” (https://www.jtlu.org/index.php/jtlu/article/view/1392)
There’s good stuff in the paper, and I encourage you to check it out, but a few findings stuck out for me:
- 46.8% of his passengers would have driven or been driven (by taxi or other means) compared to 34.1% who would have taken transit or walked/biked
- 12.2% of his passengers wouldn’t have made the trip at all if they didn’t take a TNC
- Avoiding drinking and driving is the main reason his passengers took a TNC (36.6%) and parking difficulty/cost was second (20.7%)
- On average, passengers spent more money on rides that didn’t require cruising for parking and walking
I think this paints a bit more of a sympathetic picture for TNCs than we’ve been seeing lately. Drivers substituting TNC for driving are generally doing so either because they don’t want to drink and drive (good) or, for at least some, because their city isn’t managing parking very well.
Non-drivers are substituting some transit rides, to be sure, but probably because of time constraints. And for every two rides taken from transit, there seems to be one ride a person takes via TNC that they couldn’t have taken because transit doesn’t go where they were headed.
Ironically, Dr. Henao works for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, owner of the worlds “greenest” parking garage (https://pdxshoupistas.com/how-green-is-my-free-parking-structure-not-very/).