Uber For All: How Ride-Sharing Is Slashing Inequality In NYC

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Guy Bentley Research Associate, Reason Foundation
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Uber’s lowest cost service has massively expanded access to cheap transport for low-income New Yorkers and serves people living outside the wealthy center far more than the city’s yellow taxi cartel, according to a new study.

The Manhattan Institute study shows that while all UberX rides equated to only five percent of the total number rides taken in its yellow taxi rivals in 2014, they were far more likely to service areas outside Manhattan or the bustling international hubs of NYC airports.

Data Uber shared with MI shows that a pitiful six percent of yellow taxi pickups were outside Manhattan or NYC airports compared to UberX’s 22 percent.

The report shows that UberX has enjoyed rapid expansion in the city, with rides exploding from 287,000 in January to 1,594,000 in December – a rise of 450 percent. This expansion has not been limited to wealthy Wall Streeters or well-heeled millennials. Uber’s cheapest service saw its most dramatic growth coming from low-income neighborhoods.

In December, 60 percent of UberX rides in zip codes outside central Manhattan and airports were in areas where the median income was below the non-core Manhattan median income — an increase of six percentage points from January. The study revealed that there were roughly 200,000 more UberX pickups in poorer NYC zip codes in December 2014 than in January 2014.

In the 29 zip codes beyond central Manhattan, households that had one or more pickups had median incomes ranging from $24,533 to $95,654. These riders accounted for 19 percent of all UberX pickups in 2014.

Furthermore, the study showed UberX is serving the black New Yorkers just as much as whites. For the same 29 zip codes, the average composition of black households was 29 percent. By comparison, the 2014 average for all 146 NYC zip codes outside core Manhattan—including those with less than one UberX pickup, per household—was 27 percent.

The report’s author, Jared Meyer, writes “these findings indicate that ride-sharing services—notably, Uber—increasingly provide New Yorkers in lower-income and minority neighborhoods beyond core Manhattan with a service that complements city-authorized taxis.

Further, these findings suggest that, although New York’s standard taxi model serves the needs of many residents, ride-sharing is expanding the range of available for-hire vehicle service—thereby reducing inequities in service availability in NYC’s transportation market.”

The study comes hot on the heels of Mayor Bill De Blasio’s humiliating climb down after attempting to limit the growth of the city’s most popular ride-sharing app. The mayor was forced instead to order four-month traffic study to examine the company’s impact on congestion (RELATED: Uber: Breaking New York’s Taxi Cartel)

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