Ride-sharing services like Uber reduce traffic congestion

On-demand ride sharing cuts traffic congestion in urban areas, according to a new study.

Yili Hong from Arizona State University, together with colleagues Ziru Li and Zhongju Zhang, said that ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft raise average vehicle occupancy, decrease the number of cars on the road and reduce car ownership.

The study, Do Ride-Sharing Services Affect Traffic Congestion? An Empirical Study of Uber Entry, investigated how Uber affects traffic congestion and the environment (carbon emissions) in urban areas of the United States.

The researchers looked at Uber’s launch in various urban areas at different points in time to help understand the causal effect of Uber entry on traffic patterns.

They found evidence to show that Uber’s entry to major cities leads to a significant decrease in traffic congestion of the urban areas where the cities belong to. It also reduces commuter stress and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, both of which are a direct consequence of traffic congestion.

Ride-sharing services alleviate traffic congestion because they increase average per-vehicle occupancy, thereby decreasing the total number of cars on the road, Hong explained in a blog post for LSE Business Review.

“A recent survey found that occupancy levels for ride-sharing vehicles averaged 1.8 passengers in contrast to 1.1 passengers for taxis in a matched pair analysis. According to the International Energy Agency, adding one additional person to every commute trip could achieve a saving of 7.7% on fuel consumption and a reduction of 12.5% on vehicle miles,” he wrote.

Ride sharing also provides a low-cost alternative to car ownership, the researchers said. Hong quoted a recent survey by North American ride-sharing organisations which found that 15-32% of ride-sharing members sold their personal vehicles, and between 25% and 71% of members avoided buying a car because of ride sharing.

The inescapable conclusion is that on-demand ride-sharing services will help solve the problem of traffic congestion in cities.

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