Are Uber and Lyft actually contributing to pollution rather than reducing it?
However, a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists shows that, unfortunately, the reality may not be what we would expect it to be. According to their research, a typical ride-hailing trip is about 69% more polluting to the environment than the transportation options it replaces, and can increase congestion in certain urban areas.
A rider survey, performed by the non-profit organization, shows that 24% of non-pooled trips (such as Uber or Lyft trips) in California would have been taken by mass transportation, walking or biking, or not taken at all. This means that ride-hailing users often would have used low-carbon transportation instead of ride-hailing.
However, the research shows that there is a possibility that ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft can actually help decrease pollution. That is possible if the ride-hailing companies switch to electric vehicles and decrease single-occupancy car trips as much as possible.
The report is urging governments to provide diverse transportation options, prioritize the movement of people over cars. It is also suggesting measures to be taken by ride-hailing companies in order to resolve the issue.
The future of ride-hailing services doesn’t seem so grim if indeed they are able to electrify most, if not all, of their vehicles and find ways to prioritize pooled rides. Uber is stating that it has invested in efforts to increase carpooling and provide alternatives such as bikes, scooters and public transportation. On the other hand, Lyft states that it is eager to help cities provide shared transportation and accused the researchers of not accounting for every detail, including weather conditions and other factors, influencing people’s choice of means of transport.