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Published on April 22nd, 2017 | by Cynthia Shahan


The Deceiving & Often Counterproductive Appeal Of Uber, Lyft, & More Convenient Transport

April 22nd, 2017 by  

Our head of state seems to have no education or experience with solid information on the transit needs of the public at large. Nor has he taken the time to find it. He has not considered the value of good transit, as an aid to traffic concerns, employment, education, ecological issues, and more.

Lack of better bike-ped infrastructure and transit service is a factor causing present-day travel behavior that increasingly relies on rides from on-demand taxi services, but that means less efficient transport (economically and ecologically), increasing traffic and pollution.

There are so many on-demand taxi service choices, and more popping up every day. A new study in Colorado considers the impacts of these options. The study is: Impacts of Ridesourcing – Lyft and Uber – on Transportation including VMT, Mode Replacement, Parking, and Travel Behavior.

Alejandro Henao’s study is an admirable piece of work, a deep consideration of what we often think about in superficial ways. Unfortunately, the US does not have enough mass transit, certainly not enough integrated and convenient mass transit. Henao’s study reflects on why it should.

With more transportation choice, people go places previously inaccessible to them. Furthermore, convenience constantly tugs at our shirt. The Florida sun is deadly — it is a matter of health sometimes to get out of the sun and into an air-conditioned Uber. The cold or the wind make door-to-door rides appealing. Still, the question remains: are Lyft and Uber doing away with journeys that might be biked, walked, or taken on public transportation.

David Sachs for Streetsblog reports, “Ride-sourcing companies like Uber and Lyft add tons of traffic to Denver and Boulder streets, and make the transportation system less efficient by cannibalizing transit, biking, and walking trips.” That’s according to Henao’s study. His work as a PhD candidate at the University of Colorado on this issue revealed some of the hidden truths of this new “solution.”

“Uber and Lyft famously hide their trip data from cities, so Henao went and got the data himself. He became a driver for both companies and surveyed 311 passengers over about four months in Denver, Boulder, and various suburbs. Each passenger answered 28 questions — things like where they were going, how they would’ve traveled otherwise, and demographic information.”

“The main goal was to understand how people are using Uber and Lyft — what modes they were replacing,” Henao told Streetsblog. “And also, looking at it as a transportation engineer, I wanted to see how efficient this service is, compared to other services.”

Efficiency is in question, as the above screenshot from the study shows. For the one ride documented above, there was a lot of effort — a lot of driving.

“The mileage ticker starts when Henao is hailed by the app, continues through the pick-up, and ends with the drop-off. So if he drives two miles to pick up a passenger, then takes the passenger three miles away, the person in his back seat actually accounts for five miles worth of car traffic. A bus going that same three miles on a fixed route carries a lot more people in a smaller amount of space, and doesn’t add excess mileage to the streets. But bad transit is also a culprit, according to Henao’s research.

“34 percent of people surveyed said they would have either taken transit, biked, or walked instead of using the car service. That’s about 106 people who replaced transit, biking, and walking with sitting in a car, which means 106 more cars on the road that weren’t there before.”

In a revealing related story from The Washington Post, the downside of Uber and more information arises. Lyft and Uber advertise earnings of $35 an hour. In Henao’s study, as a driver who owns his car, he shows earnings between $7 and $8 an hour. This is not a livable wage unless you are living in your car or sleeping on your neighborhood’s park bench. People do.

In this related article, we find the soft underbelly and the corporate underbelly of a troubled society trying to keep up, desperately trying to keep up and falling into more debt with low-paying work such as Uber. I am sad to say the hope of my earlier posts suggesting that an Uber job might be a life saver as a part-time job was probably overly optimistic for many. Calling a spade a spade — it is a part-time job often for the poor who all too often are working 2 to 3 jobs to make what should be provided in a full-time job, and that still does not allow them to get out of debt.

The Washington Post reports one of too many sequences showing the lack of care we have for mother and child in our country. Perhaps it is stories such as this that resulted in a desperate attempt to break up the status quo in the US in the last election. I hope the need to break free of the old regime that is deaf to struggling families does not result again in the country putting itself deeper and deeper into figurative, moral, and literal debt. It’s time to realize what we lost when we lost Bernie Sanders as a possible head of state, a candidate who was deeply focused on getting corporate fangs out of the US population. Instead, we got someone who has sunk the corporate fangs in to an unprecedented degree — the last thing a struggling middle class needs.

Related Stories:

Donald Trump Keeps Rolling Backwards: Cuts US Commitment To Transit That’s Already Underfunded

Talking Uber & Lyft & The Livable Wage

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About the Author

Cynthia Shahan is an organic farmer, licensed AP, anthropologist, and mother of four unconditionally loving spirits, teachers, and environmentally conscious beings who have lit the way for me for decades.

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