As you probably know by now, ride-hailing giants Uber and Lyft don’t make the extensive travel data they collect public. Which makes it difficult for researchers and planners to learn how this “disruptive” technology is impacting transportation systems.
That’s why researchers in Denver became ride-hail drivers to collect their own data, as well as survey their passengers. They found that the main reason people choose ride-hailing over other modes is “going out/drinking.”
Researchers Alejandro Henao and Wesley Marshall surveyed 311 Uber and Lyft riders on trips in the fall of 2016. In October 2018, we reported on their finding that 34 percent of riders would have biked, walked, or taken transit if ride-hailing wasn’t available, increasing vehicle miles traveled (VMT) by 83.5 percent. Twenty-six percent would have driven if not for Uber and Lyft.
In their latest study, the duo analyzed their data to find out how ride-hailing impacts parking demand. When respondents were asked why they chose ride-hailing for that particular trip and why they choose ride-hailing in general, going out/drinking was the top reason for their choice.
The researchers highlighted “parking” as it was the focus of their analysis.
However, these numbers changed slightly when compared with how frequently the respondent reported driving. Among riders who “always drive,” the top reason for choosing ride-hailing was going out and drinking, with the second-most common reason being the difficulty of parking. For riders who “never drive,” the unavailability of public transportation was the most common reason to ride-hail, followed by saving time.
We love that people who “always drive” are ride-hailing instead of driving when drinking. Taking drunk drivers off the road is a massive positive outcome of ride-hailing.
However, the results of this study overall suggest that ride-hailing isn’t reducing VMT, a finding similar to Henao and Marshall’s first analysis of this data set. Reducing VMT is critical to reducing air pollution, something the Denver region has struggled with for a long time.
Uber and Lyft’s public goals are to reduce car ownership and connect people to transit in order to reduce VMT. Yet the majority of respondents report no change in their driving behavior because of ride-hailing.
However, an interesting finding of this study is that ride-hailing both reduces parking demand (with 26 percent of passengers choosing ride-hail over driving) and is affected by parking demand (with 33 percent reporting that the difficulty of parking impacted their decision to ride-hail).
The finding that ride-hailing reduces parking demand could be a compelling argument for cities to replace curbside parking with protected bike lanes or bus lanes, two things that are proven to increase the numbers of people biking and improve transit service. Perhaps this would trigger a “driving death spiral.“