Uber vs. the T

A new poll of 944 Massachusetts users of ride-hailing apps indicated that services like Uber and Lyft are adding to congestion on the roads and drawing passengers away from public transit.

The poll was conducted by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, which last fall equipped 10 drivers for ride-hailing apps with tablets that allowed their passengers to fill out surveys. The approach was similar to the doctoral dissertation of Alejandro Henao at the University of Colorado in Denver, except he served as the driver.

The survey by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council confirmed what research around the country has suggested — that many people are opting for the convenience of Uber and Lyft rides and leaving behind public transit. According to the council’s survey, 42 percent of the passengers said they would have used public transit if ride-hailing services weren’t available. Another 12 percent would have walked or biked and 5 percent wouldn’t have made the trip at all. Overall, 59 percent of the trips put more cars on the road, while the remaining 41 percent displaced trips in a personal vehicle or taxi.

A majority of those polled traveled by themselves. Only a fifth of those surveyed used shared-ride options such as UberPOOL or Lyft Line.

The heaviest usage of ride-hailing apps occurred between 7 p.m. and midnight, but about 15 percent of the users substituted Uber or Lyft for a transit trip during the morning or afternoon commutes.

The study attempted to calculate the financial impact of ride-hailing apps on the T, and concluded each trip on Uber or Lyft costs the T 35 cents in lost revenue.

Representative William M. Straus, cochairman of the Legislature’s Transportation Committee, told the Boston Globe that passengers who use Uber and Lyft are saying they are dissatisfied with their transportation options.

“Whether it’s good in general is not the point,” said Straus, a Mattapoisett Democrat. “This is a transportation option that the public has definitely gravitated to.” Policy makers should focus on improving the broader transportation system and possibly seek more data from the companies, he said.

The Metropolitan Area Planning Council said in its report that researchers need access to trip data held by the ride-sharing apps. “Only with a better understanding of this new mode of transportation can analysts develop better forecasts of travel behavior and infrastructure needs, measure the region’s progress toward a more sustainable future, and establish more efficient operations and management practices for existing roadways,” the council said.

A CommonWealth report in January on the impact of ride-hailing apps reached the same conclusion, but policymakers in Massachusetts don’t seem eager to push the companies for the information.

Gina Fiandaca, commissioner of the Boston Transportation Department, said the city doesn’t view ride-sharing apps, which she referred to as transportation network companies, or TNCs, as a threat to public transit. “We want to sit at the table with the TNCs, knowing that this business model is here to stay,” she said. “It’s something that citizens want, that they’ve identified a need for, and [the apps] do fill some gaps in the transit network.”

Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack also doesn’t seem interested in pressing the ride-hailing apps for their data. Even though T ridership is down in a strong economy, Pollack believes the T is primarily losing trips, not riders. In other words, riders increasingly see transit as one option of many. Over the course of a month, she said, a Red Line user may occasionally bike, Uber, or walk to work. That will show up as a decline in ridership, but it’s really a reflection of greater choice, she said.

“We’re not smart enough to know what the future is going to look like because it’s a moment of real disruption in transportation,” Pollack said. “The disruption of the last five years has been TNCs. The disruption of the next 10 years may well be autonomous vehicles or something else we don’t even know about yet.”

BRUCE MOHL


BEACON HILL

State House pols are backing away from Stan Rosenberg, with Gov. Charlie Baker saying he should not return to the Senate president’s post if new allegations that his husband had access to his email account and tried to influence the state budget are true, and two of the three Democratic gubernatorial candidates saying he should not return to the post and one of them, Jay Gonzalez, going further and saying he should resign from the Senate. (Boston Globe) A Herald editorial says it’s time to move on and choose a permanent new Senate leader.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The Weymouth Town Council will look into claims from one of its members that Mayor Robert Hedlund violated the town charter in four areas, including failing to file a mandated annual report and appointing a department head without council approval. (Patriot Ledger)

Lawyers for the city of Fall River told a judge they are still slogging through more than 30,000 pages of emails and texts to determine what documents would satisfy the court’s order to turn over to the Fall River Office of Economic Development in the city’s suit against the private non-profit. (Herald News)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

The House Intelligence Committee voted to release the Democratic memo that rebuts the GOP narrative of FBI actions in the investigation into Russian meddling in the elections, setting up a showdown with President Trump who must approve the release. Meanwhile, Trump’s lawyers are advising him to refuse to speak with Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the probe. (New York Times) Release the memo, urges a Globe editorial.

Trump calls congressional Democrats who didn’t applaud his State of the Union address “treasonous.” (Washington Post)

With federal action to ban bump stocks stalled, cities and states, including Massachusetts, are leading the way to prohibit the sale and use of the aftermarket gun device that was used by a sniper in Las Vegas in October in the country’s deadliest shooting in history. (Associated Press)

ELECTIONS

Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch tells the Globe’s Matt Viser that he met last March with Mitt Romney to tell him he was likely to retire and that Romney ought to run for his seat.

Change is a good thing, Joan Vennochi says of Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley’s challenge to incumbent US Rep. Michael Capuano. (Boston Globe)

So far, supporters of a law that bans discrimination against transgender individuals in public bathrooms are raising more campaign money to save the measure than the opponents. (Gloucester Times)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The stock market entered its second week of plummeting values with the Dow Jones index having its biggest one-day loss ever of more than 1,100 points, roughly 4.6 percent. (New York Times)

Attorney General Maura Healey and the Berkshire Museum are now working together rather than fighting in court to reach a resolution of their dispute over whether the museum can sell works of art to bolster its financial standing. (Berkshire Eagle)

Two fishing boats owned Carlos Rafael, the jailed New Bedford “Codfather,” sank over the weekend while tied to the fishing pier but officials will be unable to determine the cause until they can raise the vessels. (Standard-Times)

The state’s FAIR Plan, which is the insurer of last resort for hard-to-insure homes including two of every five on the Cape, is seeking a rate hike to change its plan to lower the deductible on wind damage from unnamed storms. (Cape Cod Times)

There are a lot of unmarketable Super Bowl victory t-shirts and sweatshirts around New England. (Boston Globe)

EDUCATION

As many as 110 Everett school department employees face layoffs if a $9 million budget gap isn’t filled. (Boston Globe)

Families for Excellent Schools, the nonprofit that contributed $20 million to the campaign to lift the cap on charter schools, is shutting down. (WBUR)

TRANSPORTATION

An MBTA driver on the Mattapan Trolley line was fired after officials learned he was using his cellphone at the time he caused a December crash that injured 17 passengers. Oh, and he was also carrying a loaded handgun on board. (Boston Globe)

The MBTA abandoned its plan to privatize bus garages and instead struck a deal with the union representing workers at the garages. (CommonWealth)

T notes: The MBTA and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation are making  pay-to-play official: Enlisting municipal and private sector financial help on projects is now a top priority. Also, is the Mattapan trolley a money pit or a wise investment? And ridership on the T continues to slip but at a slower rate. (CommonWealth)

With state support flat, the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority is proposing a 25 percent across-the-board increase in fares and a slate of service cutbacks. (MassLive)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

A record 13,220 deer were killed by hunters in Massachusetts during 2017, but still deer density levels are off the charts east of I-495. Mass Wildlife’s goal is 10 to 15 deer per square mile, but in parts of eastern Massachusetts, where hunting is not allowed, there can be 80 deer per square mile. (Telegram & Gazette)

A nationally known energy company will now seek state and utility approval to build two solar arrays on the former Somerset landfill after selectmen gave their approval for the 3.5 megawatt project. (Herald News)

CASINOS/MARIJUANA

The Las Vegas Review-Journal says it killed a story in 1998 and deleted it from the paper’s computer system under pressure from Steve Wynn and his attorneys that focused on allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment by the embattled casino mogul. Among the allegations contained in a court suit was one from a cocktail waitress who worked for him who said she was pressured into having sex with Wynn because he’d “never had a grandmother before” and wanted to know what it was like.

Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods accused federal officials of improperly blocking their efforts to open a casino jointly to compete against the MGM facility opening this year in Springfield. (MassLive)

The Cannabis Control Commission held a hearing at Berkshire Community College on its proposed regulations. About 50 people turned out, many of them offering suggestions for tweaks. (Berkshire Eagle)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

A Brockton woman was charged with fatally stabbing her two young sons, ages 5 and 8, who may have been dead up to 48 hours before neighbors discovered the bodies in the apartment. (The Enterprise)

MEDIA

Newsweek fired several top officials amidst ongoing scandals. (BuzzFeed)

  • Joel C. Payne

    The MBTA is ineffective at getting places on time.