Another data-point on the rise of ride-hailing apps
Uber, Lyft providing 91,000 rides a day in Seattle
Most transportation analysts are convinced Uber and Lyft are transforming the way people get around in the United States, but there’s been relatively little hard data.
New York City for years has required the ride-hailing apps to disclose how many drivers are working for them and how many trips they provide. Massachusetts earlier this year released detailed ride-hailing trip data for 2017. And now Seattle, after a long, grueling court fight, is putting out its own numbers.
The newly released data indicate Uber and Lyft are providing an average of 91,000 rides a day in the Seattle region, with close to half of the trips concentrated in the city’s densest neighborhoods. Those numbers, for the three-month period from April through June, indicate ride-hailing ridership now is five times larger than it was at the start of 2015.
The Seattle Times provided some context using taxis as a measuring stick. “At their peak, before Uber and Lyft arrived, Seattle taxicabs provided just over 5.2 million trips in 2012,” the paper reported. “Uber and Lyft are on pace to provide more than 31 million trips this year.”
Transportation analyst Bruce Schaller, using data from New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission, said ride-hailing apps accounted for 159 million trips in the Big Apple (Manhattan and the five boroughs) in 2017, slightly less than taxis, which provided 167 million trips.
Other cities are seeing rapid growth in ride-hailing, but most lack hard data on what’s happening and have had to rely on analytical work-arounds to assess what’s happening. The ride-hailing companies themselves guard their information zealously. Schaller estimates 70 percent of all Uber and Lyft trips in the United States take place in nine large metropolitan areas – Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC.The hard data from New York, Massachusetts, and now Seattle allows transportation analysts to begin assessing the impact ride-hailing apps are having. Are they cutting into transit ridership? Are they easing or increasing congestion? Once these questions are answered, policy makers can decide what, if anything, to do about it.
So far, officials in Seattle and Massachusetts have drawn no conclusions about the impact of ride-hailing apps on their streets. The New York City Council, however, has seen enough. In August, the council voted to cap the number of ride-hailing vehicles operating on the city’s streets at the current level of 100,000 for a year. The councilors said the cap was needed to prevent congestion from worsening as they try to figure out a long-term regulatory solution.