According to researchers reporting in the journal iScience, vehicle registrations increase per capita when rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft arrive in urban areas.
The study analyzed data from major U.S. cities between 2011 and 2017, comparing trends in cities where Uber and Lyft entered with those where they didn’t. Vehicle ownership per person increased by an average of 0.7 percent. In addition to that, the study also found that Uber and Lyft displace transit more in cities with higher income and fewer children.
In response to their findings, Jeremy Michalek, a professor of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University and co-author of the study said, “I would have expected people to own fewer vehicles once they gain access to this alternative transportation mode. But that’s not what we see in the data. One possible explanation could be that there’s an effect on the other side, where somebody who was on the verge of being able to afford a vehicle now has an incentive to buy one and earn some money with it. So vehicle adoption by Uber and Lyft drivers may outweigh the effect of riders getting rid of their personal vehicles.”
The displaced transit in cities with higher income and fewer children suggests people with disposable income don’t mind paying more for a convenient mode of transportation. In addition to that, they don’t have to worry about bringing a car seat.
While the researchers were able to identify trends across cities with the data they collected, they were also interested in how the trends compared in specific cities. It’s important to note that their analysis only accounts for pre-pandemic patterns.
Michalek notes that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused massive changes in ridesharing, public transit, and transportation in general: “The question is, once the pandemic is behind us, do we return to the kinds of travel patterns and choices we saw before the pandemic, or are there systemic changes that won’t go back to normal because people have permanently changed their behavior? We won’t know for sure until it happens.”
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