Rideshares become ubiquitous in Mass.

Still, growth in trips slows in 2019 to 12 percent


THE GROWTH OF RIDESHARE trips taken in Massachusetts decelerated in 2019, but the roughly 91.1 million trips taken with services like Lyft and Uber generated more than $18.2 million in assessment fees for the state and local governments.

The 91.1 million trips taken with app-based ride-for-hire services represented a 12 percent increase over the 81.3 million trips taken in 2018 and a 40.6 percent increase over the 64.8 million rides in 2017, according to data made available Friday evening by the Department of Public Utilities. Year-to-year growth from 2017 to 2018 was roughly 25 percent.

“This increase happened across the entire state. The largest increases in numbers of rides from 2018 to 2019 happened in cities like Boston (approximately 3 million more), Worcester (approximately 314,000 more), and Springfield (approximately 233,000 more),” DPU wrote in its annual report on rideshare services. “That said, many cities and towns with smaller numbers of rides saw a significant percentage increase in rides when compared to 2018 ridership. For example, in Wareham, ridesharing companies reported 25,652 rides in 2019, 116.9% more rides than in 2018.”

Ride-for-hire services, or transportation network companies (TNCs) as the state refers to them, exploded in popularity over the last five years and contribute to the congestion that frustrates residents and commuters, and could threaten economic development efforts.

However, TNC rides remain a small fraction of the total passenger vehicle trips taken in Massachusetts each year — the 91.1 million TNC rides represented roughly 1.2 percent of the 7.1 billion passenger vehicle trips in 2019, DPU said. Public transit also greatly outpaces TNCs, with 382.4 million public transit rides in 2019.

But DPU said in its 2019 report that the services are becoming more ubiquitous in Massachusetts.

“In prior years, ridesharing was mainly confined to larger cities. However the ride data from 2018 and 2019 demonstrates that is no longer true,” the department said. “Ridesharing companies reported that in 2019, rides more than doubled in several towns with fewer than 8,000 residents, including Avon (35,208 rides), Nahant (15,170 rides), Dunstable (1,151 rides), Rochester (653 rides), and Shirley (3,265 rides).”

Cape Cod and the Islands also saw considerable growth in TNC usage last year, DPU said. There were more than 63,000 more TNC trips on Nantucket in 2019 than in 2018, Barnstable saw an increase of about 52,800 TNC rides, Falmouth had 24,732 more, Oak Bluffs saw an increase of 15,657 trips and Provincetown had 13,392 additional trips in 2019. On the other side of the canal, Wareham saw a roughly 117 percent increase in TNC rides from 2018 to 2019.

The South Coast also experienced a sizable increase in TNC usage in 2019, with Fall River increasing by about 77 percent to 237,276 rides in 2019 and New Bedford trips rising by about 71 percent to 281,498 in 2019, DPU said.

Boston remained the most common starting point for TNC rides in 2019 with 45.3 million trips. The next-closest was Cambridge with 7.9 million rides, DPU said.

Regulators said that “TNC use is an important thread in the fabric of Massachusetts transportation, especially when it comes to getting around cities and getting to the airport” and DPU reported there were approximately 8.4 million TNC rides in 2019 that either started or ended at Logan International Airport, about 9.2 percent of all TNC rides.

In 2019, TNC rides “traveled shorter distances, lasted longer, and moved more slowly” when compared to rides in 2017 and 2018, DPU said. The average ride in 2019 lasted just more than 17 minutes and the average distance traveled was 4.2 miles.

In 2016, the Legislature passed and Gov. Charlie Baker signed a law that put TNCs under the regulation of a new division at DPU, imposed insurance thresholds, made drivers subject to a two-tiered background check system and imposed a fee on TNCs of 20 cents per ride.

Of that money, 10 cents goes back to the municipality where the passenger is picked up, five cents goes to the state’s Department of Transportation and five cents flows to MassDevelopment for grants to help the taxi and livery industries improve technology and provide workforce development for drivers.

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Baker, in his fiscal year 2021 budget filed in January, proposed hiking the per-ride fees on TNCs, and to use much of that new funding to improve the safety and reliability of the MBTA. The governor proposed raising the fee to $1 per ride, with 70 cents going to the state and 30 cents to the municipality.

When the House passed a major tax bill in March to generate more than half a billion dollars for transportation infrastructure, representatives agreed to hike the $0.20-per-trip flat fee to $1.20 for each non-shared ride and $2.20 for every luxury ride.