Ride-Hailing and Public Transit

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Shared mobility providers like ridesourcing companies Uber and Lyft are becoming an increasingly large part of California's transportation system. Source: Ståle Grut / NRKbeta.no


The last decade has seen a tremendous rise of shared mobility modes, including carsharing, bikesharing, ridesourcing (services like Uber and Lyft), and private shuttles (like Bay-Area tech shuttles). Transit agencies often struggle with these new transportation options, unsure of how to coexist with them and afraid of competition. Ridesoucring/Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) use smartphone apps to connect community drivers with passengers.[1] Examples of these services include: Lyft, Uber (specifically, uberX, uberXL, and UberSELECT), as well as specialized services, such as Lift Hero (older adults and those with disabilities) and HopSkipDrive (rides for children either to/from school or afterschool). These services can provide many different vehicle types including: sedans, sports utility vehicles, vehicles with car seats, wheelchair accessible vehicles, and vehicles where the driver can assist older or disabled passengers. While taxis are often regulated to charge static fares, TNCs typically uses market-rate pricing, popularly known as “surge pricing” when prices usually go up during periods of high demand to incentivize more drivers to take ride requests.


Studies on the impacts of ridesourcing/TNCs are limited, particularly the effects of these innovative services on core transportation modes (e.g., taxis, public transportation). While one study Feigon and Murphy (2016) [2] concluded that ridesourcing/TNCs substitute more automobile trips than public transit trips, three other studies suggest that ridesourcing/TNCs may cannibalize trips made by public transit and active modes (cycling and walking). Henao (2017) surveyed 311 passengers in the greater Denver metropolitan area over a four-month period and found that 34 percent of riders said they would have either taken public transit, biked, or walked instead of using ridesourcing/TNCs.[3] This study also found that ridesourcing/TNCs takes more vehicle trips to move fewer people. The study found that it takes an average of 100 vehicle miles to transport a passenger 60.8 miles.[3] Another study of ridesourcing/TNCs in New York City by Schaller (2017) found that ridesourcing/TNCs accounted for the addition of 600 million miles of vehicular travel to the city's roadway network between 2013 and 2016.[4] This study also found that in Manhattan, western Queens, and western Brooklyn, ridesourcing/TNCs added an estimated seven percent to existing miles driven by all vehicles. Furthermore, VMT continued to increase in spite of the availability of pooled options because single-passenger trips still predominate, and most ridesourcing/TNC customers are coming from public transit, walking, and biking.[4]

Finally, a 2014 study of 380 ridesourcing/TNC users (a 50.2 percent response rate) in San Francisco asked respondents about key trip characteristics, including trip purpose, origin and destination, and wait times.[5] Most trips, 67 percent, were social or leisure in nature (such as trips to bars, restaurants, and concerts or visits to friends or family) in contrast to just 16 percent of trips that were work related. Of all trips reported, 47 percent originated somewhere other than home or work (e.g., restaurant, bar, gym), while 40 percent had a home-based origin. If ridesourcing/TNCs were unavailable, 39 percent of respondents reported they would have taken a taxi, 33 percent would have taken public transportation, 8 percent would have walked, and 6 percent would have driven their own vehicles. Another 11 percent of respondents said they would have taken another mode.[5] Respondents were asked if they still would have made the trip had ridesourcing/TNC services not been available and, if so, how they would have traveled. Among respondents, 92 percent replied they still would have made the trip, suggesting that ridesourcing/TNCs has an 8 percent induced travel effect.[5] 


See full article on Transit-Ridehail Partnerships.


  1. Shaheen, Susan; Cohen, Adam (April 2016). "Smartphone Applications to Influence Travel Choices: Practices and Policies". https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/fhwahop16023/fhwahop16023.pdf
  2. Feigon, Sharon and Murphy, Colin. (2016). Shared Mobility and the Transformation of Public Transit. American Public Transportation Association. https://www.apta.com/resources/reportsandpublications/Documents/APTA-Shared-Mobility.pdf
  3. 3.0 3.1 Henao, Alejandro. (2017). Impacts of Ridesourcing – Lyft and Uber – on Transportation including VMT, Mode Replacement, Parking, and Travel Behavior. University of Colorado, Denver. https://www.cpr.org/sites/default/files/cu-uber-lyft-study.pdf
  4. 4.0 4.1 Schaller, Bruce (2017). Unsustainable: The Growth of App-Based Ride Services and Traffic, Travel and the Future of New York City. Schaller Consulting. http://www.schallerconsult.com/rideservices/unsustainable.pdf
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Rayle, Lisa, Danielle Dai, Nelson Chan, Robert Cervero, and Susan Shaheen. (2016). Just A Better Taxi? A Survey-Based Comparison of Taxis, Transit, and Ridesourcing Services in San Francisco. Transport Policy, Volume 45, pp. 168-178. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tranpol.2015.10.004