Ridesharing Proves Its Efficiency In San Francisco


(Preet) #1

One of the few statements I have stood against for years is the premise that people need to own a car. Not everyone needs a car, and in fact, if you live in a city you most probably do not need a car at all. You can use public transport and ridesharing companies for inner-city traveling. Trains, buses, planes and ferries for long distances. If you want to plan an interstate trip and have freedom, you can rent a car for that time period. Owning a car, paying the monthly fees for a car that is parked 20 hours a day is, in my opinion, ridiculous.

Now, a recent study co-authored by the Rocky Mountain Institute's mobility transformation program researcher E.J. Klock-McCook confirms what can be proven in simple terms. His opening statement is "The big takeaway is that (ride-hailing cars) are at least as efficient, if not more so than personally owned vehicles."

The study was developed to assess ride-hailed services on city congestion, convenience, mobility costs and carbon emissions. The survey has an extra impact on San Francisco since there are 45,000 Uber and Lyft drivers operating in the SF area.

The survey covers over a year of data that was given to them by Lyft, and it covers rides in SF, NYC, ad Chicago. Lyft did not finance the study, only provided data. The data provided some interesting insights, including the fact that Lyft trips are 24% more efficient than personal car usage in SF, while in NYC it was only 2% more efficient, and Chicago it was 6% better.

The model that was used:

The miles a Lyft driver waited for a ride, the miles to drive to pick up the passenger and then the miles of the ride itself. Based on older studies, they used the statistical average of 1.67 passengers per ride for regular rides and 2.67 passengers for Lifelines rides.

They then compared the miles per ride for a Lyft passenger versus the same trip for a personal car and used the Census Bureau's American Community Survey data which claims that the number of occupants in a personal vehicle in SF is 1.05, in NY 1.02 and 1.06 in Chicago 1.06.

This difference in the number of passengers per car is the difference in miles per person. What Lyft VP of Public Policy Joseph Okpakus said "The study confirms what we believe: ride-sharing can help with some of the congestion problems we see,"

An issue that the study did not consider or include was the time it takes for a driver to find a place to park and the parking hours per day. Neither did the study take into account the savings a car owner would make when not owning a car in comparison to owning one and spreading the cost over the number of actual miles driven and time in parking. The study did not account for other transportation options such as public transportation, but that is obvious since the study was not about a comparison between different modes of transport, it was a study about the effectiveness of rideshare companies.

While this study might state, that rideshare driving is more efficient than personal car use. A study in NY found that the 11 minutes wait between rides would cause city congestion.

The San Francisco County Transportation Authority is no stranger to ridesharing issues. Last year they demanded (web to court) from Lyft and Uber details about their rides in SF so that they could evaluate the impact rideshare driving was having on the cities traffic. The SFCTA also invested in some software to calculate this impact and reached the following conclusions, that Uber and Lyft cars add half a million miles within the city limits and account for 20% of all city vehicle miles. Uber and Lyft shared their data with the city but requested that the data remain shielded for privacy and competition reasons.

City Period 1 Period 2 Period 3 PP LP Efficiency
San Francisco 1.4 miles 0.6 miles 4.1 miles 1.05 1.67/2.67 24%
New York 2.8 0.7 5.1 1.06 1.67/2.67 2%
Chicago 2.5 0.7 4.7 1.03 1.67/2.67

Period 1: the time a driver waits for a ride

Period 2: the time a driver drives to a pickup

Period 3: the actual ride with a passenger

PP: Personal Passenger

LP: Lyft passengers