Uber or Lyft make lofty claims about how their services reduce greenhouse gas emissions by lowering the number of cars on the road, but a new study found that they might not be as sustainable as they think.
Researchers at the University of Colorado – using the most unique methodology we’ve seen – found that ride-hailing increases vehicle miles traveled (VMT) by 83.5 percent.
Uber and Lyft famously don’t release their data to researchers or transportation planners. To overcome this, the research team signed up as Uber and Lyft drivers themselves in Denver, where they surveyed their passengers.
The survey results found that 34 percent of ride-hail users would have biked, walked, or used transit if Uber or Lyft was not available. An additional 12 percent of survey participants said that they simply would not be taking the trip if ride-hailing was unavailable.
Sharing rides with multiple passengers – filling seats in cars that would have been half-empty – is the center of Uber and Lyft’s plan to reduce emissions, but shared rides only accounted for 13 percent of total rides in the study. Of the 54 Uber Pool or Lyft Line rides requested, only eight percent resulted in an actual match.
What’s key: Ride-hailing is not a one-to-one replacement for drive alone trips. The researchers found that 46 percent of study participants were not using Uber or Lyft as an alternative to driving alone.
Read more about the study in this Denverite article, where our director Paul Mackie is quoted.
Photo by Abe Landes for Mobility Lab.