ridesharing lessons in the rear view mirror
Ridesharing has been around for ten years. Looking in the rear view mirror, we see valuable lessons learned since Uber launched the phenomenon in San Francisco. In the last decade, about 700 cities all over the world have seen the arrival of ridesharing services. Growing and evolving quickly, ridesharing has changed transportation habits. Cities are trying to balance the pros and cons for the common good.
Hope and promises at first
The word “über,” means above or across in German. Ridesharing was promoted initially as a better, safer and more efficient way to get across town. Ridesharing proved very popular and grew fast. Signing up thousands of registered partners, as Uber drivers are known, along with affluent, urban consumers looking for a lift.
The in-car experience was far above public transit. Nicer and less expensive than taxis, especially when using carpool options. Hailing a ride by app was faster and more personal than the antiquated taxi dispatch system, and more reliable than flagging down a cab on the street. Smartphone technologies such as GPS tracking and digital payments helped to ensure safety of the rider, driver and public.
Acting as booking agent, Uber got around municipal taxi service licensing and regulations. Objections came from Taxi companies. Promising less traffic congestion, helped convince some cities to allow ridesharing companies to operate. Ridesharing also was expected to get more people out of single-occupant cars. Longer-term predictions suggested people would own fewer vehicles, making it a ‘greener’ transportation alternative.
MADD x Uber and a safe ride home
Ridesharing also promised to help reduce impaired driving. In 2017, Uber supported a new national partnership, announced by MADD Canada with CEO, Andrew Murie, saying, ‘Having safe, convenient and accessible transportation options is critical’.
According to MADD Canada, most impaired driving incidents happen at night and during the weekend. In Canada, rush hour for ridesharing is not when people are getting to and from work, but late at night when bars close.
By working together, MADD Canada and Uber will drive awareness and raise funds to help prevent impaired driving. Both organizations will also combine their efforts to support regulatory reform that promotes greater access to ridesharing as a service that can meaningfully contribute to road safety.
More road safety always sounds good to us. Data from a 2015 Temple University study seemed good reason to support this too. The arrival of Uber in a city led to a 3.6%-5.6% decrease in the number of people killed in alcohol-related car crashes.
Rural rideshare pilot in Innisfil
That was part of the thinking behind the partnership between the Town of Innisfil, Ontario and Uber. The town has a population of 36,000 that either drives, or is limited to taxis. The small community needed, but could not afford public transit.
Contracting with Uber on a pilot provided subsidized rides to the local town hall, recreation and employment centres, along with regional bus stops and train stations. Providing detailed trip data was part of what Uber shared with Innisfil, something they don’t usually do.
Rides are subsidized by the town, an average of $5.62 per trip, so passengers pay only $3 to $5. In the first 8 months, over 3,400 residents took at least one Uber out of more than 26,700 Innisfil Transit trips taken. Nearly, 1,400 drivers provided the ride. Savings for the small town are significant compared to the costs of fixed bus routes. The town estimated it added up to more than $8 million per year and expanded the program.
Innisfil Transit has had a major impact on our community, providing residents with a safe, convenient and inexpensive door-to-door transit solution that a bus system could never provide, said Innisfil Mayor, Gord Wauchope, March 15th, 2018 media release.
Ridesharing success story got stuck in traffic
In large cities we now know much more about how ridesharing has changed consumer habits and has literally got stuck in traffic. Bruce Schaller, former deputy commissioner for traffic and planning at the New York City Department of Transportation wrote an in-depth report, “The New Automobility: Lyft, Uber and the future of American Cities”.
Here are some highlights
- Ridership is highly concentrated in large, densely-populated metro areas.
- Billions of miles of driving have been added in the largest metro areas at the same time that car ownership grew more rapidly than the population.
- Ridesharing competes mainly with public transportation, walking and biking, drawing customers from these non-auto modes based on speed of travel, convenience and comfort.
- Ridesharing is used instead of personal autos mainly when parking is expensive or difficult to find and to avoid drinking and driving.
- Private rideshare adds 2.8 new vehicle miles on the road for each mile of personal driving removed; an 180 percent increase.
One of the reasons ride hailing vehicles actually increase congestion is because drivers spend 40-60 percent of their time driving around looking for passengers. That phenomenon is called ‘deadheading’. More traffic is not ideal, since we know how costly congestion can be.
The convenience and lower pricing of ridesharing has resulted in substitution away from public transportation, biking or walking. Local tax revenue is needed by cities to build and maintain their roads.
That is why some municipalities are adding licensing taxes and regulations to the ridesharing sector. Yet it is individual drivers who pay for local licensing and insurance. To make ends meet they work longer hours and drive for another company to cover added costs. Driver fatigue potentially puts road safety at risk.
Be Alert to road safety risks
We know isn’t easy to balance taxi, ridesharing business, with convenience and the congestion impact on cities. It will take some creative approaches and ongoing adjustments. We just want everyone to arrive at their destination safely. Our Be Alert products aim to encourage awareness and active attention to road safety, for rideshare or taxi drivers, and especially for the most vulnerable road users: children, pedestrians and cyclists.