The Ride-Sharing Revolution Is Actually Making Traffic Worse

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Tim Pearce Energy Reporter

Transportation network companies (TNC) such as Uber and Lyft may be increasing traffic congestion in large cities rather than alleviating it, reducing legal speed limits and creating longer commutes.

The New York City Council is considering legislation aimed at capping the amount of ride-sharing automobiles would be allowed to operate in the city at one time. If passed, the laws would be the first of their kind enacted in a U.S. city, Axios reports

The growth of ride-sharing, which experts initially thought would alleviate traffic, seem to have had the opposite effect, according to a July 25 report by Bruce Schaller, former New York deputy commissioner of transportation. (REPORT: Uber, Lyft Driver Fired For Live-Streaming Hundreds Of Rides)

TNCs carried 37 percent more passengers from 2016 to 2017, an increase of 1.9 billion to 2.61 billion. The sector is expected to keep expanding to 4.74 billion trips annually by the end of 2018, according to the report.

The passengers attracted to TNCs are people who would not otherwise be on the road. Most people using ride-sharing services are those who would otherwise use public transportation, bicycles or walk to where they needed to go. The trend of people transitioning from these transport options to ride-hailing services has resulted in an extra 5.7 billion vehicle miles annually in nine major U.S. cities, according to the report

Cars in TNCs are without passengers 40 percent of the time they are on the road during working hours. To combat congestion and make ride-sharing services more efficient, Schaller advocates for a cap on the number of TNC vehicles allowed to work during a certain amount of time.

“Put the cap where it counts: on Manhattan’s clogged streets. Limit the number of Lyfts and Ubers in Manhattan during daytime hours,” Schaller writes in the New York Daily News. “That would force the companies to fill their cars and even yellow cabs, whose drivers under recent taxi commission rule changes can now utilize the Uber and Lyft apps.”

Schaller may be overstating the scope of the problem, co-founder and former CEO of Zipcar Robin Chase writes in City Lab.

The transportation systems in large urban areas have been stressed and congested for years, long before ride-hailing services like Lyft and Uber took off. Also, Ride-sharing services account for little road congestion nationwide. The Federal Highway Administration estimates that rail transport, ride-hailing and car-sharing services makes up just 1.7 percent of miles traveled by people living in large cities, Chase writes.

“I am disappointed that the shared trip offerings aren’t yet delivering on getting more people into each vehicle. But we are at the earliest stages of this whole shift,” Chase writes. “We need more people participating to get the origin-destination-timing match volumes we need to make it sing. Today, 75 percent of personal car commutes are alone.”

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