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Does Uber Help or Hurt Mass Transit?

In a recent article published by the NYT, it discusses how ride-hailing companies, such as Uber and Lyft, affect traffic conditions. It discusses multiple ideas, such as if a ride-hailing company causes people to “ditch their cars” or to “use cars (driven by other people) even more”. Researchers at U.C. Davis Institute of Transportation Studies surveyed a few thousand travelers in major cities like New York, Chicago, and LA to analyze travel behavior.

Their conclusion was that companies like Uber and Lyft actually cause travelers/commuters to use less public transportation for their own benefit. So what does this mean exactly? It means that one traveler is usually making their own travel time more efficient, giving themselves a better Nash Equilibrium. A traveler would use an Uber instead of walking, biking, or using public transportation that has a longer travel time or is unreliable. Additionally, they concluded that although it makes an individual’s travel time more efficient, it doesn’t make transportation of an entire city more efficient. This relates to many of the transportation problems we analyzed in class, and specifically relates to Braess Paradox, which is the idea that “adding capacity could actually slow down the speed of the network”. However, in this case, the article analyzes adding more vehicles/travelers on the road rather than adding another path/highway like in lecture.

Overall, the study reported that transportation services like Uber and Lyft don’t make traffic conditions better for an entire city, even if they had the ability to.

 

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