Society's winners and losers of Uber and Lyft (it's a love/hate relationship)

Wednesday, February 19, 2020 by Snacks

5 Stars for Convenience... 0 stars for congestion. The Uber and Lyft-led ride industry has made life easier for many: whether it's having a few too many margaritas with dinner, visiting a new city, or needing a ride to the airport. It's also never been harder in one way: traffic. Here's the low-down, based on studies summed up by the WSJ:

  • The Pitch: Uber/Lyft pitched themselves as ride-sharing apps (picture 4 strangers in a Prius heading the same direction). Five years ago, Uber founder Travis Kalanick said it would end congestion: "If every car in San Francisco was Ubered there would be no traffic."
  • The Reality: Congestion got worse. Most riders hail private cars β€” an estimated 70%-80% of rides in major metro areas are non-pool. Drivers in NYC and California cruise without passengers ~40% of the time. Though Lyft estimates 500K Americans gave up personal cars thanks to ride-hailing (not ride-sharing).

Negative effects take a back-seat... When you can get contact solution delivered to your door same-day by Amazon, you're probably not thinking about delivery vehicles congesting streets. Similarly, users of ride-hailing services are likely to think more about convenience than traffic or pollution.


Fibbing about your mission can be a (disturbingly) successful strategy... The reality of ride-hail apps is more driving, more traffic, more pollution, more horn honking, more air fresheners. If we were woke sooner to Uber being part of a problem, not part of a solution, we may be less likely to have started Ubering. But now Lyft/Uber are here to stay, despite years pitching a mission that wasn't accurate.

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