Mass. ride-hailing trips rise 25% in 2018
Boston, Cambridge are hot spots, but reach growing
RIDE -HAILING APPS such as Uber and Lyft continued their strong growth in Massachusetts during 2018, boosting the number of passenger trips by 25 percent and starting to move outside the major urban centers.
Ride-hailing apps handled 81.3 million trips in Massachusetts during 2018, up from 64.8 million the year before, according to a report issued by the state Department of Public Utilities late on Thursday.
The numbers are sure to accelerate debate on Beacon Hill about whether the 20-cent fee Massachusetts charges ride-hailing apps for each trip is adequate given their growing use of the state’s roadway infrastructure. Total fees collected in 2018 came to $16 million, a $4 million increase over 2017.
The report said the apps handle a tiny fraction of all trips in the state, but acknowledged they have “become an important thread in the fabric of Massachusetts transportation, especially when it comes to getting around cities and to the airport.”
The other cities in the top 10 for ride origination – Somerville, Brookline, Newton, Worcester, Quincy, Medford, Malden, and Everett – were the same as in 2017, but the order changed slightly. Worcester, with nearly 1.3 million trips, moved from ninth to sixth, while Medford, with 1.2 million trips, fell from sixth to eighth.
While most users of ride-hailing apps are in large urban areas, that may be starting to change. The report said requests for rides grew fairly dramatically in many smaller communities and in some of the regional urban centers. An interactive map indicated trips grew by more than 100 percent in Lee, Southbridge, Townsend, Acushnet, and Provincetown. There was also strong growth in Fall River (125 percent), New Bedford (155 percent), Gloucester (110 percent), Pittsfield (167 percent), and Fitchburg (134 percent).
Overall, the report said, the average ride-hailing trip was 4.8 miles in length and 15.6 minutes in duration at an average speed of 18.6 miles per hour.
While the ride-hailing apps have had a huge impact on the taxi business, previous studies have indicated that a significant percentage of people taking Ubers and Lyfts would have used public transportation if the apps were not available. A survey of 1,000 users of ride-hailing apps in late 2017 by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council indicated 42 percent would have used public transit for their trip if the apps had not been available, while 12 percent would have walked and 5 percent would not have made the trip at all.
According to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, there were 398 million public transit trips in 2018, down about 10 million from 2017.The 20-cent fee collected for each ride-hailing trip is split three ways – 10 cents to the municipality where the ride originated, 5 cents to the Commonwealth Transportation Fund, and 5 cents to the Massachusetts Development Finance Agency to support the taxi industry. A breakdown of collections by municipality was not immediately available, but a summary of what the funds from 2017 were used for was included.
The report did not spell out which ride-hailing apps provided data for the report. Last year’s report, the first ever issued, listed six companies, including the two biggest – Uber and Lyft – as well as Wuleeb, Zemcar, Fasten, and Embarque.