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Noreen McDonald: Impacts of Ridesourcing on Road Safety: Analysis of Austin, Texas

street projecting from phone screen
Photo credit: photo / Matheus Bertelli from Pexels

Time and Location: Thursday, September 26, 4:30 p.m. Room 115, West Sibley Hall

Noreen McDonald is a faculty member at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she serves as chair of the Department of City and Regional Planning and holds the Thomas Willis Lambeth Distinguished Chair in Public Policy. She also serves as director of the Carolina Transportation Program and associate director of the Collaborative Sciences Center for Road Safety and Southeastern Transportation Research, Innovation, Education and Development Center.

McDonald is interested in how investments in infrastructure such as schools, roads, and bike lanes influence travel decisions and the downstream impacts of those decisions on road safety, public health, and city structure. Her work considers how these relationships differ across space and demographic groups and how new technology (Uber, Lyft, autonomous vehicles) may disrupt these relationships. McDonald received her undergraduate degree from Harvard in engineering and chemistry and her Ph.D. in city planning from University of California – Berkeley. Prior to becoming a professor, she worked as a consultant for Cambridge Systematics and Mercer Management Consulting (now Oliver Wyman).


Improving road safety and setting targets for reduction of road traffic crashes and deaths is highlighted as part of the United Nation’s sustainable development goals and city, state, and country Vision Zero projects. Over the past decade, ride-sourcing has increased dramatically, yet evaluations of the road safety impacts have been limited and mixed. In this work, we analyze the effects of ride-sourcing on road crashes, injuries, fatalities, and driving while intoxicated in Austin, Texas. Our work is unique because it uses trip data from a ride-sourcing provider and analyzes variation at a small geographic scale. We find ride-sourcing volumes negatively impact DWI arrests and have no significant association with other road safety outcomes.

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