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How Ride-Hailing Apps like Uber Benefit Public Transit


Do you use Uber to get you where you need to go in times where riding the bus, bike or driving your car just isn’t possible or convenient?

The ability to request, track and pay for trips via mobile devices is a game changer in the way people get around and interact with cities.  In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers looked at the traveling habits of 4,500 people in seven cities and it revealed that the more people use shared services like Lyft and Uber, the more likely they will use public transportation.  In fact, among those that use Lyft and Uber, 50 percent say they use a train and 45 percent report using a bus frequently.

In the study Shared Mobility and the Transformation of Public Transit, the study author’s surveyed “shared use” or “ridesourcing” consumers in seven cities: Austin, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C.  In addition, researchers conducted in-depth interviews with private ride-sourcing operators and public transit agency officials to understand the impact of new-tech mobility services.  The study was prepared for the American Public Transportation Association through the Transit Cooperative Research Program.

“As the study shows, people who use public transit and these shared services are making a lifestyle change that results in more walking, less driving and greater household savings because of overall lower transportation costs.” said APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall.  “It is important that we provide options that complement and enhance our public transit service.”

“The way people get around in communities is being transformed, and public transportation is at the heart of this formal shift,” said APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy.  “Together with companies like Lyft and Uber, we are integral to creating a dynamic multimodal lifestyle.”

Using Uber and Lyft is a gateway to a car-lite lifestyle, with users owning fewer cars in a household, according to the study.  The effects on vehicle ownership are even greater among frequent users of several shared modes, such as bikesharing, carsharing (e.g. Zipcar), and ridesourcing.  These frequent shared users own nearly half a car less than a transit-only user– 1.5 versus 1.05 cars per household.

“This study confirms what we’ve always believed — ridesharing is an important complement to public transportation,” said David Plouffe, Chief Advisor and Board Member for Uber.  “We’re excited to work with transit operators across the country to accelerate progress toward our common goal: cities with better mobility for residents that are less congested, less polluted and less dependent on personal car ownership.”

“APTA’s study shows the powerful positive impact Lyft and public transit can achieve when we work together,” said Emily Castor, Director of Transportation Policy for Lyft. “Transit is the backbone of urban mobility, and Lyft’s flexible, reliable service helps fill in the gaps. These findings prove that Lyft and transit combined reduce the need for car ownership, which will lead to more livable, sustainable cities.”

The study authors noted that once people are introduced to ridesharing, significant lifestyle changes take place, such as 30 percent of shared mobility users report driving a car to work less often.  Using a combination of public transit, and ridesharing may lead to better health.  Almost half of all respondents and nearly two-thirds of frequent users of shared services also say they are more physically active since they began using shared mobility services.  In addition, it could lead to significant financial savings, 20 percent report postponing a car purchase, 18 percent decided not to buy one at all, and 21 percent sold their car and did not replace it.

In every study city, a clear peak in ridesourcing demand is visible between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. on weekends, and in the majority of cities this is the time of greatest demand overall—public transit is often unavailable at this time, meaning ridesourcing does not compete directly with public transportation, but rather, complements the entire mobility network.  Fifty-four percent indicated that they had used ridesourcing for a recreational or social trip within the last three months, which means there are fewer drunk drivers on the road, the study authors highlight.

In the study Shared Mobility and the Transformation of Public Transit researchers conducted a quantitative survey of more than 4,500 shared-use mobility consumers.  In addition, study authors interviewed more than 70 officials at public agencies along with representatives of five shared-use private mobility operators.  To read the study in its entirety go to

Written by The Rapid

The Rapid (Interurban Transit Partnership) is the authority that provides a variety of public transportation services for the Grand Rapids metro area and beyond. It is organized and operates under Michigan Public Act 196 of 1986.