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Ride-hailing services are making Boston roads more congested: Report

Though many people may use Uber and Lyft instead of owning a car, they're also using those services instead of taking public transportation, increasing traffic on the roads.
uber, lyft, ride hailing, ride hailing boston, uber boston

Uber and Lyft may be adding to traffic in Boston, according to a new report. Photo: Reuters

Ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft may make it easier to get around a city for those who don’t own cars, but they’re not actually taking many vehicles off the road. In fact, they’re making Boston’s roads more congested, according to a new report.

The Boston Metropolitan Planning Organization (MAPC) recently released a report, funded by the Barr Foundation, for which 1,000 ride-hailing passengers in the Boston metro area were surveyed.

The survey, conducted at the end of 2017, asked about these passengers’ demographics, the nature of their ride-hailing trips and why they chose to call such a ride, rather than use another method of transportation.

To conduct the survey, MAPC reached out to drivers for Uber, Lyft, Fasten and Safr and equipped their cars with tablets so the passenger could fill out the survey in the vehicle.

Most ride-hailing users are under 35 years old, the survey found, and mainly use the service because they don’t own a car themselves.

People call ride-hailing vehicles throughout the day, according to the survey. Though the greatest frequency of trips are between 7 p.m. and midnight, 40 percent of weekday trips are within the morning or afternoon commute times.

Passengers who call Ubers or Lyfts also like to ride alone, the survey found, even though it costs more. Only one-fifth opted to share their ride through services like UberPOOL or Lyft Line.

This behavior leads to more traffic on our roadways, according to MAPC — especially since riders are choosing this service instead of taking public transportation.

More than 40 percent of these passengers said that they would have used public transit for their trip if ride-hailing services weren’t available. Approximately 12 percent said they would have walked or biked instead of calling for a ride, and 5 percent wouldn’t have made their trip at all.

“In other words,” according to the report, “59 percent of all ride-hailing trips are adding additional cars to the region’s roadway system.”

The remaining 41 percent of trips, the survey notes, would have occurred via the rider’s own vehicle or by taxi.

When it comes to the morning and evening rush hours specifically, this survey estimates 15 percent of ride-hailing trips add cars during those times to the area roadways.

But our roads can’t really handle “unchecked growth” in this ride-hailing travel, especially when it’s just one person occupying each vehicle, according to MAPC.

Ride-hailing trips are replacing “more sustainable modes of transportation (transit, walking, and biking) at an alarming rate,” the researchers note, and these findings show a need to invest in the MBTA, so it can better compete as a transit option with ride-hailing services. 

 
 
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