You might be surprised to find out that transport community firms (TNCs) such as Uber and Lyft are responsible for traffic congestion. A first-of-its-kind study conducted by the SMART research team at MIT made national news when it revealed that ride-sharing services affect urban mobility due to road congestion and other factors. Moreover, when people have easy access to these ride-sharing services, they tend to avoid using greener alternatives to commute.
In this study, research data using a panel data set showed the impact that ride-sharing services have on a metropolitan area. The focus of the study involves the three aspects that ensure robust urban mobility. These include urban mobility trends, socio-demographic influences, and the given area with an influx of these ride-sharing services.
The TNC Backstory
The growing demand for ride-sharing services has steadily grown over the past five years. Studies show that in 2016, 25 million Americans had started or were already running their own businesses. But these ride-sharing companies are doing well at a time when many other businesses have faltered. The growth of transport community firms has been massive. However, with steady growth in this industry, challenges have also emerged. The main barrier highlighted by this study is the traffic congestion caused by these ride-sharing services.
In car races, there are short tracks, speedways, and superspeedways that range from 0.5 to 2.5 miles long. But most Americans stick to driving on highways and local roads at relatively reasonable speeds. According to this new MIT study, those streets might have become a lot more crowded if you live in an area served by Uber or Lyft. The reason behind these overcrowded city roads has been attributed to the "deadheading miles" that TNCs are subjected to when they travel without any passengers. Deadheading miles refer to the distance traveled between when a driver drops off a passenger and picks up another. It is estimated that more than 40% of miles of a TNC are deadheading miles.
Gearing for Change in the TNC Industry
Although 80% of job openings are not posted online, becoming a driver for Uber or Lyft has been cited as a common option for those who lost their jobs during the pandemic. However, it is clear that the popularity of these platforms can have an adverse impact on the cities in which they operate. Nowadays, there's a positive attitude towards the development of ingenious urban mobility systems aimed at increasing accessibility and maintaining environmental stability. Yet, it can be easier to fast-track their implementation if there are transportation planners, policies, and regulations that support decisions that affect the business of TNCs.
The expansion of TNCs is still in its early stages, which makes it difficult to conduct extensive research on how this business model should operate to achieve optimal positive changes. However, the slightest positive change from the public can help to reduce the problems with traffic congestion. For instance, the study found that most of the ride-sharing trips that are responsible for the deadheading miles could have been made through other environmentally-friendly alternatives (such as walking) or could have been avoided entirely.
The Bottom Line
Ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft are essential for convenient commuting services in the modern age. They offer an affordable service with different ride options, allowing others to get around without owning a vehicle. And despite the controversy surrounding their independent contractors, these companies can provide a means of income for many Americans. However, they do come with challenges that require collective participation to mitigate. While this study by MIT is a step towards a broader approach to addressing the problem, there is still a need for pragmatic action combined with effective policies to regulate this industry.
Moreover, commuters also need to be made aware of the challenges that affect urban mobility as a result of ride-sharing services. There should be more awareness aimed at promoting greener alternatives, such as walking and using public transport, to prevent any deadheading miles. The promotion of a sustainable environment should remain a top priority.