Art of Transit
Disruptive Transportation: The Adoption, Utilization, and Impacts of Ride-Hailing in the United States (University of California Davis)
As we’ve noted often in this space, transit ridership at Metro and many large transit agencies has taken a pronounced dip in recent years.
There are likely a number of reasons why: a strong economy, lower gas prices, lower car prices, transit service issues and the popularity of services such as Uber and Lyft that will take you door-to-door for prices often far less than a traditional taxi.
That last point has mostly been based on conjecture and anecdotal evidence. But a new UC Davis study based on surveying Uber and Lyft riders has burped forth this week and offers some more compelling data about cheap taxis (as I like to call them) and transit.
As would be expected, a lot of transpo observers are focusing on something else in the study: in cities, the presence of cheap taxis probably means more overall driving by vehicles on the road.
That’s not exactly huge news — others have suggested the same thing — but it’s still a blow to the idea that cheap taxis are seriously transforming the way we get around.
The finding also suggests that self-driving cheap taxis will NOT magically make traffic congestion disappear, as some have suggested. Again, not a shocker to those who have actually thought about the issue.
I thought there was one other finding that was interesting and somewhat new. Many people like to say that cheap taxis reduce the need to drink and drive. That makes sense. I don’t use cheap taxis much, but I have definitely used them after tipping a few too many. As have many folks I know.
But…the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released its annual traffic fatality data last week and, sadly, traffic deaths and drunk driving deaths rose in the past year. So did the number of miles driven and other types of deaths (motorcycle, pedestrian and bicycle). All no bueno, of course, although distracted driving deaths were down.
So what are the takeaways from all this? Here are mine:
•Consumers have made it clear they like cheap taxis for certain types of rides but it’s not really revolutionizing the way we get around. A lot of people aren’t using the cheap taxis and the cheap taxis aren’t seriously impacting transit use for many people or car ownership.
•This study should tell transit agencies what I pray the should already know: fast, frequent service goes a long way with riders.
•There may very well be a good way for cheap taxis and transit to be complimentary to one another — but the evidence is that no one has quite hit the bullseye on that one yet. As many of you know, Metro will be trying to run a MicroTransit service that uses some of the best features of ride hailing — and that could result in a better transit experience for riders. Read all about it here.
•This study and others surely to follow will help cities decide what, if anything, they should do about cheap taxis. Sure they may increase the number of vehicles on the road, but they also may save time and make it easier and cheaper for folks to get around. If transit backers don’t like it, they perhaps should look in the mirror first and figure out how to win back market share.
Categories: Transportation News