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Transportation United States The Courts

Uber and Lyft May Cause Lower Car Ownership In Big Cities, Says Report (slashgear.com) 118

A new study from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute has shed light on what may turn out to be a growing trend: lower car ownership in cities where ride-sharing services are available. SlashGear reports: While Uber and Lyft have both deployed in a number of cities, they have, at times, had to abandon those cities due to local governments driving them out for one reason or another. That's what happened in Austin, Texas, opening the door for an interesting study on personal car ownership. Did the sudden absence of these two services cause increased car usage and/or ownership, or did things remain unaffected? The result, according to the study, was a big increase in personal car usage and a statistically significant increase in car ownership. The researchers surveyed a total of 1,200 people from the Austin region, and found that 41-percent of them started using their own car more often to make up for the lack of Uber and Lyft rides. As well, a total of 9-percent of those surveyed bought their own personal car to make up for the services' absences.
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Uber and Lyft May Cause Lower Car Ownership In Big Cities, Says Report

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  • A study also found out that in cities where parents drive their kids around to all possible locations, the bike ownership of the kids go down.

  • by DrXym ( 126579 ) on Saturday August 12, 2017 @05:17AM (#54997581)
    A decent public transport system and a city that is spatially planned around the needs of people who live there.
    • by El Cubano ( 631386 ) on Saturday August 12, 2017 @07:58AM (#54997983)

      A decent public transport system and a city that is spatially planned around the needs of people who live there.

      Agreed. When I have visited New York City (usually for work) I have been able to get by for a week by mostly walking around, taking the subway (e.g., in inclement weather or for long distances, I mean I am not going to walk from Brooklyn to Manhattan just because), and only occasionally taking an Uber or taxi (e.g., late at night, going some place where the subway does not reach or is inconvenient). It is actually kind of nice to visit there because I live in an area where the public transport is, shall we say, lacking. I like being in a city where you can live without an automobile. NYC is clearly very friendly toward the non-automobile owning crowd.

      I know that visiting is different than living some place but NYC is the only place I visit where I simply know before I even go that I will not be renting a car or even be taking some sort of motorized surface transport very much. The only exception was a trip I took to Seattle this past year. I was there for an event downtown and got a hotel a few blocks away so I was able to walk everywhere I needed to go that week. But usually even in Seattle I have a need to go to the outlying areas far enough away that I usually just rent a car.

      Owning a car is just a pain and costs a lot of money. I have a few years-old Honda that is relatively inexpensive to own and operate (compared to many other vehicles) and I probably spent in the neighborhood of $4000-$5000 on it in the last twelve months. That includes gas, insurance, scheduled maintenance (I did hit a major service interval), a new set of tires, and other miscellany. That averages out to near $400 per month, which is crazy. I cannot imagine what it would be like to own a real gas guzzler or a European car or sports car with higher maintenance costs.

      • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Saturday August 12, 2017 @10:19AM (#54998495) Journal

        Agreed. When I have visited New York City (usually for work) I have been able to get by for a week by mostly walking around, taking the subway

        I just came back from a visit to my hometown, Chicago. I went up there to visit some friends and take care of my daughter's dog while she went to an out-of-town wedding. She left me her (very nice) car, but I never took it out of the garage. Chicago has the finest public transportation system I've ever seen in a big old city. Airport to my daughter's house? Blue line and then a short walk. Ride down to see some friends and watch Muse at Lollapalooka? Blue line straight downtown. Drop in at my old martial arts school? Milwaukee Avenue bus. Everywhere else was a walk or bikeride away.

        Here in Houston (I'm moving to California in a few weeks), I cannot go three miles without driving on a crowded, dangerous expressway. You cannot ride a bike from the Museum District to Midtown (3 miles) because they built highway 59 without allowing for any cross streets. No zoning laws whatsoever, a libertarian paradise, but if you want to go to the grocery store, you have to get on an expressway (and the grocery store is only about a mile away). Lots of expressways means that instead of neighborhoods, you get strip malls full of gun shops, pawnbrokers and Dollar Stores.

        Public transportation and a little bit of smart urban planning is the way to go.

        • When I lived in San Francisco I could literally walk to work faster than taking public transportation, and then I didn't have to sit on a seat someone has recently pissed on. Maybe I'll visit Chicago sometime just to see what competence looks like

          • by mikael ( 484 )

            I remember being in London, when I missed the bus going to the nearest tube station (which I didn't know where it was). Instead, I just walked along the sidewalk and walked behind the bus until it reached the tube station.

      • by mjwx ( 966435 )

        I cannot imagine what it would be like to own a real gas guzzler or a European car or sports car with higher maintenance costs.

        I own a BMW M240i, I can tell you exactly what it's like owning a car like that is.

        Fun.

        I live outside of London, London has one of the worlds best public transport systems. If I were to live in Lonodn and use public transportation from zone 6 (I.E. somewhere affordable to live) I'd be paying £2,408 just for taking the tube. I'd then have to give up the benefits of owning a car, being able to go to the shops and carry home heavy items, being able to go somewhere when or where public transport doe

    • by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Saturday August 12, 2017 @08:55AM (#54998197)

      Decreased urban car ownership is an obvious first impact for ridesharing services, especially when they start using automated cars. Expensive, frequently-updated automated cars will fall into the hands of fleets, which will be better able to manage recharging of limited-range electrics than individuals are willing to be bothered with. Fleet operation of automated cars also eliminates the need for parking at the places where people are picked up and dropped off, freeing up whole square kilometers of pricey urban real estate.

      And instead of replacing mass transit, car services can operate in conjunction with it. Your ride app will display the cost of a ride in one car from A to B in comparison with the option of A to some chosen subway station, followed by a pickup from another subway station to B. If it's date night, riders will take the more expensive one-car option; if you're just headed to the office, many riders will take the transit option, especially on routes they repeat a lot. Even if all ridesharing services accomplish is weaning commuters onto mass transit, that will be a huge accomplishment.

    • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Saturday August 12, 2017 @10:07AM (#54998457)
      The problem with spatially planning a city is that the plan for a small city is different from the plan for a big city, but it's impossible to predict if a small city will become a big city. So short of reclaiming areas via eminent domain and re-purposing them (wasteful since you're demolishing established structures), you're left with an either/or choice. Either spatially plan for the size city you have today and get burned if the city becomes significantly larger in the future. Or spatially plan for future city growth, and get burned if the city doesn't increase in size or even shrinks [sott.net].

      Public transportation systems can also have the same problem of city not growing as expected (subways), although they can be slightly more flexible (buses). Taxis are even more flexible, since the number of taxis in service can be scaled up or down more quickly than buses. And Uber/Lyft vehicles are even more flexible yet since they're otherwise used as personal vehicles.

      In other words, this isn't a problem with just One Correct Solution. It's a problem with multiple solutions - the more efficient solutions quickly drift out of their optimal range if city growth doesn't follow projections, the less efficient solutions are more flexible and can adapt more quickly to deviations in city growth from expectations.
      • So short of reclaiming areas via eminent domain and re-purposing them (wasteful since you're demolishing established structures), you're left with an either/or choice.

        Sometimes opportunities present themselves. When the Southern Pacific (now Union Pacific) built a new yard [up.com] in Roseville, railroad traffic through Silicon Valley was significantly reduced from hundreds of trains to several per day. Caltrain took over the San Jose yard to better support expanded service between San Francisco and Gilroy. The county expanded the light rail line along the right of way from San Jose to Campbell to form the Winchester line. Several right of ways are being re-purposed as landscaped

      • by DrXym ( 126579 )
        Spatial planning is an ongoing thing and it's clear in many cities, particularly in the US that they planned around the motor car, not people. They assumed everyone would drive and the consequence is everyone MUST drive or suffer terrible quality of life. It's not uncommon to drive 20 miles down a single road which has strip malls either side. No coherence or sense to it. Even with a car we see the problems extend in other directions - obesity, addiction to oil, pollution, poor air etc.

        And its not even a

      • by jabuzz ( 182671 )

        Thing is most European cities are much better than American cities in this regard. Except most of these European cities are older usually many times older than the USA has been around. The issue is that in the USA the planning was around the car. The problem is that it scales horribly.

    • A decent public transport system and a city that is spatially planned around the needs of people who live there.

      Now count the number of planned cities which are successful. There are simply not that many of them worldwide. Most of them threw a city and nobody showed up to live there. That's because all of the best sites have been inhabited since before the invention of the wheel, and people live there instead. Some of those sites were sparsely inhabited enough to grow a meaningful road network, while others are basically limited to glorified foot paths.

      The problem with public transportation is that it usually sucks e

    • Buses and so work poorly for those sprawling cities the US likes to build. Too few people for the same route at the same time.

      On the other hand, taking TFS at face value (which may be a bad idea considering other comments): if Uber and Lyft were so mighty popular it actually reduced car ownership and private car use, this also means the existing, licensed and legal, taxi companies could do a lot more business. The big question would be, why would a private taxi company like Uber or Lyft put a dent in privat

  • by Anonymous Coward

    You only need to look at British market towns and cities to work this one out. In all areas, urban growth grew along main roads and train lines so that it was easy to get to shops without needing a car. Some cities ran their own bus services until privatization. Some areas were hit by Beeching cuts and tore up their local rail network and sold it for scrap. Others decided to build ring road networks, demolish old tenement blocks and replace them with high-rise offices.

    Then you end up with cities like London

  • by Anonymous Coward

    No Uber or Lyft but low car owners and traffic usually not so crowded on roads. Buses usually on time and taxis move along at moderate speeds.

  • by TheRealHocusLocus ( 2319802 ) on Saturday August 12, 2017 @05:48AM (#54997653)

    To imply that Uber and Lyft may affect the level of car ownership in cities... and not unplanned increases in population density, poor traffic planning and insufficient focus on infrastructure, decades of neglect of public transport, and general economic strife as more bond issues (in general) have been used to bail out pension systems and line pockets than break ground on new projects... not to mention changing demographics where median income fails to cover rising expenses, the young are moving back in with their parents, and Millennials are putting a brave face on it by pretending it is a voluntary lifestyle change... half the country is at cold uncivil war with the other (non-partisan, city vs. country folk)... the 'cash for clunkers' manufacturer-driven scam that took lots of reliable and viable vehicles off the roads... and a new economy where families that once owned cars free and clear paying on houses, are now paying on cars and will forever rent houses... and the stock market is rising to the cliff while the global petrodollar is in decline...

    It seems like someone has snapped on a special filter that only passes a narrow band of illumination revealing 'ride-share-y' things and 'gig economy-y' things and 'self-driving-car-y' things and is shining that dim light everywhere, so that attention is drawn to it. When the economy crashes and natural sunlight creeps in these things will be revealed as the tiny issues that they are.

    • by DrYak ( 748999 )

      If "A" is a cause "B", that doesn't imply that every single instance of "B" must necessarily only be cause be "A" and nothing else.

      In other word :

      To imply that Uber and Lyft may affect the level of car ownership in cities... and not {blablabla, long list of other stuff that cause car ownership}

      It seems like someone has snapped on a special filter that only passes a narrow band

      Nobody is trying to make think that ride-sharing is the single explanation of car-ownership.
      There might be tons of other reasons, but this reports simply states that ridesharing is among the factors that influence it, because eachtime you add or remove it, car ownship change accordingly.

      And BTW, the same phenomon has been observed in European cities, regarding car

      • Dare you title it 'Logic'? From the actual UMich press release [umich.edu], that links to the study [ssrn.com] not the article in the Slashdot summary that links to the wrong Reuters article,

        In an unexpected finding, wealthier respondents were less likely to purchase a vehicle than those whose household income is below $100,000 a year. The researchers speculate that this is because those in a higher income bracket likely already had a vehicle at their disposal.

        There's a clue. Or MAD MONEY at their disposal. Perhaps the researchers' ability to speculate stops short of imagining that ride sharing as it stands and those trip fares are a luxury item... and it does not provide a reliable or economical means to meet daily commitments. Today it does not even provide survival income for most that offer

  • by timholman ( 71886 ) on Saturday August 12, 2017 @06:22AM (#54997729)

    On our college campus, Uber and Lyft have had a significant effect on the parking situation on campus. Ten years ago, almost every undergraduate student who was allowed to brought a car to campus, and parking spaces were hard to come by. But with Uber and Lyft just minutes away any time of the day or night, more and more students are leaving the car at home. You can always find a parking space.

    I also do a straw poll in one of my classes when discussing Moore's Law, just to find out who does and does not have a driver's license during discussions on autonomous transportation. Each year, more and more students admit to not having one. Those without one don't seem at all self-conscious about admitting it; they don't consider it a big deal in any way.

    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      Each year, more and more students admit to not having one. Those without one don't seem at all self-conscious about admitting it; they don't consider it a big deal in any way.

      I can assure you that my kids will have DLs. Even if you are not going to own a car, its a valuable skill and not having one presents limits and possibly even safety concerns. I see no reason for not getting one other than laziness, apathy, or fear. Of the two cases of kids that I know that did not get their license when of age, it was fear. Fortunately both overcame that within a couple years.

      • No, I can back him up on the driver's license thing. It has definitely changed.... a lot!

        When I was a kid, pretty much every single kid got their driver's license on their birthday. Those unlucky few who's 16th birthday fell on the weekend had a great anecdote about how they had to wait aaaaaalllllll weekend!

        Kids these days are not nearly as pressed. I have 18 nieces and nephews. Only about half of the ones over 16 got their license within a few months of turning 16. Several waited until 17 or later.

        Fi

        • I did not say things have not changed. I think you misinterpreted my post.
        • When you were a kid, you could get a drivers licence at 16, and possibly a learners' permit a few months before that, but the driving age has been creeping up all over the country as the most inexperienced drivers are found to make the most mistakes, so obviously the solution is to push their opportunities for experience out even more. I think in many states you can't even get a full license until 18.

        • No, I can back him up on the driver's license thing. It has definitely changed.... a lot!

          When I was a kid, pretty much every single kid got their driver's license on their birthday. Those unlucky few who's 16th birthday fell on the weekend had a great anecdote about how they had to wait aaaaaalllllll weekend!

          Kids these days are not nearly as pressed. I have 18 nieces and nephews. Only about half of the ones over 16 got their license within a few months of turning 16. Several waited until 17 or later.

          Finding a 16 year old without a license was like finding a unicorn when I was a kid. It also implied that you couldn't pass your test or you had gotten in some sort of legal trouble. It isn't that unusual any more. I don't know why... maybe it is the increased connectivity with the internet. Maybe it is the increased traffic - although some of those nieces and nephews live way out in the country where there isn't much traffic. What I can say is that it is definitely different. I also see a lot of kids that I work with at church who don't bother to get their license. One girl we use for babysitting just moved away for college and still hasn't got a license. I don't understand it, but I do know it exists.

          It's changed because of the decline in the middle class (parents can't afford another car, not to mention teen insurance rates), good paying manufacturing jobs, and because of the cost of University. I would argue that the cost of University is one of the larger factors.

          • Not likely. All of the kids I know personally can afford a car. They even have extra cars laying around. It seems to be a definite choice, whether born of apathy, lack of need or sound decision making based on the developing teen brain being ill-suited to continuous life and death decision-making.

            One of my nieces could have driven her dad's Porsche or her mom's M5. Not interested. Didn't get her license until she left for college (paid for by daddy). She's brilliant and wonderful and well-rounded ..

      • by Osgeld ( 1900440 )

        we have an intern this year that at 20 has no plans of even attempting to get a DL, and its a burden on the guys who live on his side of town to schedule a transportation plan for this guy and then go drive him almost 40 min across town.

        I don't see how one could possibly expect to have a industrial career and think he is going to live down town within walking distance of everything his heart could desire

        doesn't help he is an arrogant prick on top of it all

      • I see no reason for not getting one other than laziness, apathy, or fear.

        I waited until 25 to get my license because car insurers overcharge policyholders if a driver under 25 is on the policy. Another family may not have thousands of dollars to pay a driving instructor for the 50 to 120 hours of supervised driving that the state requires of new drivers, especially if the parent is also a non-driver. In what way do these excuses fall into the categories of "laziness, apathy, or fear"?

        • Well, there are always rare exceptions, you may be one. Wasn't drivers ed is provided free in public schools in your state?
          • by tepples ( 727027 )

            When I took health class in high school, driver's ed was not on the curriculum. Students wanting to learn to drive were expected to attend a private driving school for $350. I completed the classroom portion of it after I graduated from high school, but I had to leave for college before the behind-the-wheel portion could begin. And even then, the behind-the-wheel portion provides only 6 hours of supervised driving on a learner's permit, leaving it up to the parent to arrange the other 44 (or more depending

            • Man, you sure had some bad luck. In our state, and most I believe, you get a learners permit a year early, and that couple with passing the public school course is all you need to take your driving and written test for license.
        • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

          I waited until 25 to get my license because car insurers overcharge policyholders if a driver under 25 is on the policy. Another family may not have thousands of dollars to pay a driving instructor for the 50 to 120 hours of supervised driving that the state requires of new drivers, especially if the parent is also a non-driver. In what way do these excuses fall into the categories of "laziness, apathy, or fear"?

          The insurance companies fear young drivers getting into accidents, so they raise premiums, of co

        • Another family may not have thousands of dollars to pay a driving instructor for the 50 to 120 hours of supervised driving that the state requires of new drivers, especially if the parent is also a non-driver. In what way do these excuses fall into the categories of "laziness, apathy, or fear"?

          It's laziness and apathy on the part of the family, who should supervise their driving for them so that they don't have to pay for the privilege.

          • by tepples ( 727027 )

            the parent is also a non-driver

            It's laziness and apathy on the part of the family, who should supervise their driving for them so that they don't have to pay for the privilege.

            If you mean the parent should learn to drive in order to supervise the child's driving, then who supervises the parent's driving?

            • If you mean the parent should learn to drive in order to supervise the child's driving, then who supervises the parent's driving?

              If they live in a place where you have to own a car to be a first-class citizen, then yes, the parent should learn to drive, and then supervise their child. I grew up raised by a single mother who did not own a car and it stole many hours of life. However, we don't have these minimum hours of driving for eighteen year olds, and that's when I got my license.

    • 10 years separation in data points attributed to Uber and Lyft? Has nothing changed in your city in 10 years?

      I have the same anecdote you do. It is now far easier to find parking at the local university compared to 10 years ago. There's also several new bus lines, a new bridge making access easier to the southside, far more localised student housing, another university campus on the other side of the city reducing the need for long commutes, significantly more bicycle parking available, and all that ignorin

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Correlation isn't causation. Austin is rapidly growing city and influx of population alone could account for increased car usage and ownership.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Unlicensed and uninsured drivers cause usurious car insurance rates in big cities which cause lower car ownership.

  • Owning a car is stupid: about 50% or more of car ownership cost is tax in all Western countries.

    Gas - taxed heavily
    Mandatory service and inspections - self explanatory
    Toll roads - self explanatory
    Parking - in case of public parking
    Vehicle tax - self explanatory
    Consumables - do you know that quite a few countries put extra tax on motor oil?
    Driving license renewal - in case of taking exams at public licensory

    • by Nkwe ( 604125 )

      Owning a car is stupid: about 50% or more of car ownership cost is tax in all Western countries.

      Gas - taxed heavily Mandatory service and inspections - self explanatory Toll roads - self explanatory Parking - in case of public parking Vehicle tax - self explanatory Consumables - do you know that quite a few countries put extra tax on motor oil? Driving license renewal - in case of taking exams at public licensory

      Perhaps you mean expensive instead of stupid. I would agree that owning a car is expensive, but it is stupid only if the cost benefit analysis of ownership is negative and you don't have money to spend on frivolous things. Sure, it costs you money to own a car, but you get benefits from car ownership as well. If you can afford (or need) those benefits, you are not being stupid.

      For people that live in a city with good transportation infrastructure, who live close to work and where they shop, who have regula

      • Sure, it costs you money to own a car, but you get benefits from car ownership as well. If you can afford (or need) those benefits, you are not being stupid.

        > But you get benefits :

        Do you really ? that's the key question behind this report, and the general answer is depends on the actual needs.

        This report's part of the answer is that, among other, it depends on the availability of other cars and drivers.
        Introduce ridesharing services : and the benefits of car owner ship suddenly seem less evident - why pay for an expensive car when you could get around using Uber, Lyft, etc.
        Remove ridesharing services : and the ownership of cars rises up again, as suddenly owning a car, despite being still that much expensive, suddenly is beneficial again as there less other alternative to get around.

        The same is observed in european cities with car-sharing.

        or for those that just enjoy driving and the freedom a personal automobile provides

        If that's the sole reason, then that's part of the "firvolous spending". Things that aren't a necessity, but you still spend money on because you enjoy them. That's entirely out of the scope of TFA's theme.
        The point is to analyse how much car ownership is beneficial, compared to availability or not of ridesharing.

  • Did the sudden absence of these two services cause increased car usage and/or ownership, or did things remain unaffected?

    Swapping miles on your own car for miles on an uber is zero sum. It might reduce car purchases and parking though.

  • The study is just WRONG. Austin always had rideshares so the redux in car purchases was due to something else. Just because it wasn't uber/lyft does not mean we did not have them. We had rideshares willing to conform to the background checks. Of course uber did what uber does, got the state to override our law by buying the right people off with some hookers and blow.

  • rideshare is OK for a night bar hopping but isn't a replacement for car ownership in most places. This is the same mentality that tears up six lane city boulevards, puts in two lanes of "hard bike lane", and with trucks unloading, means you get 1 1/2 lanes of travel. Meanwhile, in NYC at least, the mass transit system they want you to use is overloaded and the 1930 technology is barely hanging on. Anyone who can afford it tends to own a car. There is a reason a private parking space can be $600 or more.
  • by trawg ( 308495 ) on Saturday August 12, 2017 @09:02AM (#54998221) Homepage

    I moved to Ohio from Australia a few years back and was pretty sure we'd need a car. But I worked from home and my partner was happy with the 30min walk to her work (something which blew the mind of almost every American we talked to). Even in the winter it was feasible for her.

    We used Uber quite regularly to get around. The local buses were pretty average - mostly because they stopped like every 150m, wtf, Americans really hate walking!). But aside from being slow they were perfectly serviceable. They even added a free route up and down the main street - which was awesome, except it came online towards the end of our stay there.

    The thing that made the biggest difference though wasn't Uber or Lyft, it was Car2go. The city did a great job of making Car2go available - we had free parking near us so could just dump the car anywhere, and of course could always pick one up.

    I am now in London where haha as if you would own a car here - public transport is awesome. Whether or not cities have a Car2go-esque system in place will definitely play a role in my next move.

  • Could the editors please rephrase it using "Millennials are killing...?"
  • LOL...big ubber liberal mecca. The city probably didn't want uber/lyft because it might impact their: bus, taxi, registration fees too much. In LARGER cities, I could see some benefit to these services, but, out here in what is known as flyover country (midwest) sometimes you have to drive 20-30 miles, just to get TO a larger town.
  • The pollution and expenses generated by private ownership of cars is a negative for the entire city. The better Uber and its kind do the less private cars will be needed. In addition to the benefits to the public the simple fact is that cars have been getting more and more expensive. Since housing and food are also inflated getting rid of transportation expenses will enable people to save for retirement or an emergency situation.
  • Living in Dallas, I bought myself a bike, then started using Uber to get to work. Since parking downtown is $5 a day, once you factor in insurance, gas and maintenance, it was actually cheaper for me. Parked my car in the garage, let the insurance lapse... Finally sold the car. With all the money I saved, went to Europe for two weeks.

  • I think it's a good thing that people with access to ride sharing services would stop buying their own personal transportation.

    I can also see how a city might want to support car sales (and the excise taxes they can raise) by outlawing those services. Historically, preservation of the status quo is a strong driver of decisions by government functionaries.

    But the economic decisions of individuals IS a primary tenant of free market capitalism, is it not?

    Let's see how this cognitive dissonance will play its

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