Decades ago, road sharing platforms Uber and Lyft, entering the market, claimed that their business would help reduce personal travel by car, unload city streets and even increase the use of public transport. But a new study by American scientists proves the opposite, according to Bloomberg CityLab.
The researchers decided to study externalities, or “external costs” – the hidden costs of third parties for a product or service. There are negative externalities of using cars in the city, such as damage from congestion, accidents, air pollution, noise pollution, landscape distortion, etc. These losses are compensated by the whole society, not just motorists.
To compare the externships of traveling in your own car and using ride-sharing platforms, American researchers created a simulation that “transplanted” 100 thousand motorists to Uber and Lyft in six cities, including New York, Austin, Chicago, and others. They took into account such parameters as air pollution, gas emissions, road deaths, etc., and translated them into the amount of money that society spends on overcoming these consequences – or, perhaps, on the contrary, saves.
Riding a car on a platform will benefit from traveling in your own car on one parameter: air pollution. On average, compared to a private car Uber / Lyft by 50-60% reduces the cost of overcoming the effects of such pollution. This effect scientists explained by the fact that when starting a cold internal combustion engine, more pollutants are released than when starting a heated one. Platform cars are more commonly used, and, accordingly, their engines are warmed up all day.
But this advantage is entirely offset by “empty” trips. After all, Uber / Lyft drivers wind many kilometers between completing one order and getting to the landing site of the next customer. According to data available for six US cities, platform drivers travel almost 40% of the distance without passengers. Accordingly, these cars consume more fuel, produce more emissions, increase congestion, accidents, and noise pollution.
After all, one trip on Uber or Lyft costs society an average of 35 cents more than traveling on your private car. This difference cannot be compensated even if only electric cars run on the platform: the difference, in this case, will be 17 cents.
Let’s remember that even if car travel is not as harmful to the city as on Uber / Lyft, it is still much more helpful to use public transport.