Uber and Lyft are the “biggest contributors” to San Francisco’s traffic congestion, study says theverge.com/2019/5/8/18535….
Uber and Lyft have long argued that ride-hailing apps have the potential to make cities better by ameliorating traffic and reducing personal car ownership. But there is a growing body of research that suggests the opposite is taking place. The latest study, published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances, underscores how Uber and Lyft are worsening traffic in the city that gave birth to the ride-sharing phenomenon.
San Francisco, home base to both Uber and Lyft, is experiencing some of its worst traffic in years — research firm INRIX ranks it the eighth most congested city in the US — and much of it is due to the rising popularity of transportation network companies (TNC, an industry term used to describe ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft). How bad is it? According to today’s study, between 2010 and 2016 traffic congestion in San Francisco increased by about 60 percent — and Uber and Lyft are responsible for more than half of that increase.
The study began when the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) reached out to Gregory Erhardt, associate professor for civil engineering at the University of Kentucky and an expert in transportation models and travel forecasting, to help determine the impact of ride-sharing on the city’s traffic patterns. (The authority previewed the findings of the study in its own report released in October last year.)
Erhardt said the goal was to present a “before” and “after” picture of San Francisco’s streets — before Uber and Lyft became popular in 2010, and after they became a dominate mode of transportation in 2016. To start out, they used a standard transportation simulation to control for variables, such as population growth, changes to the city’s transportation system, and a rise in freight and deliveries.
A big challenge going into this project was access to data. Uber and Lyft are sitting on troves of really interesting data on the movement of cars and people, but they are generally reluctant to share it with governments or academic researchers out of privacy concerns and for fear of compromising their competitive advantage. As a result, the research into the effect on congestion has been a mixed bag: some studies conclude that TNCs reduce congestion, while others note they increase vehicle miles traveled (VMT). Still others fail to reach any conclusion at all — and most researchers cite the lack of data as a prime obstacle. — Andrew J. Hawkins/@verge