From the Seattle Times:

A new study in New York City says the growth of the app-based ride services could work against cities’ goals of unclogging streets and reducing vehicle emissions, as well as potentially undermine other transportation options, such as public transit and taxi services.
In Seattle, where congestion ranks high worldwide, transportation officials say transportation network companies (TNCs) such as Uber and Lyft may worsen traffic during commute hours, but they don’t have the specific data to tell. …
According to University of Washington professor and traffic expert Mark Hallenbeck, Seattle’s dense neighborhoods have more at stake in terms of how the app-based services clog roads. People in those areas rely more on the companies compared with those in the suburbs to evade parking hassles, for example.
“Ride-hailing apps have potential to add to congestion,” he said in an email, as well as contribute to less curb space in busy areas such as downtown when drivers are picking up or dropping off passengers. That “puts even more pressure on the city to figure out how to use the limited curb space they have.” …
According to the New York City study, ridership with TNCs there tripled between June 2015 and the fall of 2016, when 15 million passengers used the services per month.
“The secret to success in New York City over the last 20 years is the transit system’s ability to absorb the growth in travel from population and economic growth,” Bruce Schaller, a former senior official at the city’s Department of Transportation and the report’s author, told The New York Times. “If all that growth translated into more use of private cars or taxis and Ubers, it’s not a sustainable way to grow the city.” …
In the Seattle area, transit ridership actually increased last year, nearly doubling that of any other U.S. metro area, according to figures compiled by King County Metro Transit, using preliminary data from the Federal Transit Administration.
Compared with less dense places, such as the suburbs, the UW’s Hallenbeck said neighborhoods such as Seattle’s Capitol Hill, Ballard, downtown and Pioneer Square provide more opportunity for ride-hailing trips to take away from transit.
“This is a price for service question. How much are people willing to pay for a faster, more direct service?” he said in the email. “My understanding is that this (Seattle) has not been a very big market.”
But Hallenbeck believes it will grow when or if the quality of transit service declines, such as when buses become overcrowded like in New York City.


  1. “But Hallenbeck believes it will grow when or if the quality of transit service declines, such as when buses become overcrowded like in New York City.”
    Nobody ever goes there. It’s too crowded.

  2. I think it’s a double-edged sword.
    On one hand, ride-hailing allows people (especially single parents and self-employed professionals) to not own a car, not have to pay insurance or monthly lease/rent/payments to banks for the privilege of owning a car that just sits in the garage. So it’s not the road congestion that is impacted, but the housing density. If I wanted to live say, 30 minutes outside of the transit area, Uber/Lyft and such become a better option than waiting 2 hours round-trip to take a myriad of transit transfers, if there is even an option at all. It allows people to choose not to own a car.
    On the other hand, ride-hailing in cities that do offer reasonable transit (eg Vancouver, NYC, Toronto, Seattle) can siphon funding away from improving the transit system. Is there really any reason to use an Uber cab when a Subway ride takes 90 seconds for the train to arrive and 5 minutes to board-ride-exit, but waiting for an Uber car takes 7?
    The ride hailing really is meant to solve the first problem (individuals who do not own cars, and do not need cars on a daily basis), but creates the second problem (individuals choosing not to take transit) when the transit system is insufficient. I do not imagine people wanting to walk 20 minutes to a take a series of transfers on slow streetcar/lightrail systems just to get to their destination when an Ubercar will take them directly there in half the time, and in some cases half the price. But at the same time, the ride hailing companies are heading directly in the direction of automation, and at that point they will be more cost/time competitive than everything but the subway.

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