Study: Ride-Hailing Cuts Public Transit Usage

Bus and rail ridership has dropped more than 1% per year in U.S. cities where ride-hailing services are available, according to a study by the University of Kentucky.

Researchers at the university’s dept. of civil engineering examined transportation usage patterns in 22 cities between 2002 and 2018. They found that when so-called transportation network companies such as Uber and Lyft enter a market, rail and bus ridership drops by 1.3% and 1.7% per year, respectively, leading to increased traffic congestion.

The effect on public transit becomes more pronounced as ride-hailing usage expands, the authors note. In some cases, bus ridership fell by nearly 13% over eight years in cities with strong long-term ride-sharing services.

New York City experienced a tenfold increase in combined daily trips in Uber and Lyft vehicles from 2015 to 2018. During the same period, daily ridership of buses and subway trains in the city fell by 580,000 trips.

Other factors are contributing to declines in public transit, including low fuel prices and increased car ownership. There also have been service cuts in large cities such as New York and Washington D.C. But the authors say bus and rail ridership has accelerated since 2015 and often correlates to ride-hailing availability.

The University Kentucky findings mirror those of several other recent reports, indicating that ride-hailing can poach public transit users and people who would otherwise walk or stay home. The Seattle Times says Uber and Lyft added some 94 million miles of driving on local roads in 2017.