Uber, Lyft rides plunged to record lows in 2020
Pandemic slowed rideshare industry, but trip speed picked up
THE NUMBER of Uber and Lyft rides in Massachusetts plunged to record lows during the pandemic of 2020, with the total number of rides across the state falling to 35 million, down 62 percent from 2019, according to state figures released Monday.
With the drop in rides, there was also a sharp downturn in revenue for the rideshare companies, their drivers, the state, and municipalities. The state collects a 20-cent-fee per ride, with 10 cents going to the municipality where the passenger was picked up, 5 cents to the Department of Transportation, and 5 cents to support the taxi and livery industries.
The total fees collected by the state fell from $18.2 million in 2019 to $7 million last year. Half of the money went to the cities and towns where rides originated. All but a handful of tiny communities in western Massachusetts saw the number of Uber and Lyft rides originating within their borders fall, and therefore the fee revenue from those rides also fell.
Boston took the biggest drop, with the number of rides falling by nearly 30 million to 15.9 million and the city’s fee revenue declining to $1.6 million. Cambridge saw ride originations fall from nearly 7.9 million to nearly 2.3 million. Although trip levels were way down, Somerville, Brookline, Worcester, Quincy, Everett, and Malden remained in the top 10 for ride origination; Newton and Medford fell out of the top 10, replaced by Brockton and Lynn.
The rides that took place in 2020 generally traveled longer distances at faster speeds compared to rides in previous years, according to a pared-down analysis by the Department of Public Utilities, which oversees the industry.
The average ride in Massachusetts in 2020 lasted 15.5 minutes and traveled 5.3 miles at 20.5 miles per hour. In 2019, the average ride lasted 14.8 minutes and traveled 4.2 miles at a speed of 17.1 miles per hour.The faster speeds in 2020 undoubtedly reflect the decline in traffic congestion during the pandemic. Using speed as a barometer for congestion, 2019 had the highest congestion of the four years rideshare data have been gathered. The average speed in 2018 was 18.6 miles per hour and in 2017 it was 17.7 miles per hour.
Efforts to raise the fees assessed on Uber and Lyft rides have been unsuccessful the last few years, but the Senate budget proposal gives it another try this year. The Senate proposal calls for increasing the current flat 20 cent fee per trip to 40 cents for a shared ride, $1.20 for a non-shared ride and $2.20 for a luxury ride. The proposal would also add an additional 20-cent fee on rides that start and end in the MBTA’s service area.