What is the impact of ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft on the environment? After all, as of December 2014, Uber was providing over 1 million rides per day. By June 2015, Uber was reportedly providing 1 million rides per day in China, alone! That is a lot of vehicle emissions.
Though Uber and Lyft would like you to believe that there is an environmental benefit, because it can eliminate the need for car ownership, skeptics say the services could replace eco-friendly alternatives such as public transportation or biking.
Well now we get to find out. BetaBoston reported that experts from the University of California at Berkeley and the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Urban Solutions program were granted the ability to acquire user-survey data from Uber and Lyft passengers. The researchers hope to gather at least 2,000 pieces of data from at least two cities to measure the environmental impact of the rides, by asking riders information about the car they took, their demographics, and what they would have done if they hadn’t used Uber or Lyft. The ride-hailing companies will send the survey to users and add their own anonymized data on details such as how far drivers had to drive to pick up their passengers. The study will likely be based in cities such as New York, San Francisco, Austin, and Boston, where Lyft Line and uberPOOL services exist. The goal is for the research to be completed by the summer or fall of 2016.
Do you think that Uber and Lyft are good or bad for the environment? Anecdotally, I know of many casual riders who would normally walk or take public transportation, but choose to take Uber/Lyft because it was raining/too cold or it was just easier to spend $5 on the quick ride. Though a great modern convenience, Uber/Lyft do seem to create more car trips (and emissions).