Report: Ride-Hailing Drastically Increases Vehicle Miles Traveled

New research published in Transport Policy finds that ride-hailing companies increase vehicle miles traveled of users by 97 percent in Chicago, 114 percent in New York City, and 118 percent in San Francisco.

2 minute read

January 26, 2021, 9:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Transportation Network Companies

NYCStock / Shutterstock

[Updated January 27, 2020] New analysis by Schaller Consulting, published in the Transport Policy journal, quantifies the effect of ride-hailing companies on the amount of automobile travel (measured by vehicle miles traveled) by users.

Kea Wilson provides analysis of the new study, noting that the study accounts for "all the miles that drivers spent circling or heading to their pickups — aka dead-heading," in addition to the amount of time drivers spend in route to a paying customer's destination. The non-customer driving is significant: dead-heading "accounts for as much as 48 percent of the average e-taxi driver’s total mileage in some cities," according to Wilson's explanation of the report's findings.

Wilson summarizes the realities of ride-hailing, as indicated by the study's findings:

In every region in the study, the customers of transportation network companies at least doubled their total vehicle miles travelled compared to the modes they told researchers they would have taken had Uber and Lyft not been around. Schaller found collective VMT increases of a whopping 97 percent in Chicago, 114 percent in New York City, 118 percent in San Francisco, 157 percent in Boston, and 118 percent in the California suburbs.

Ride-hailing companies have the tools to limit this excess driving, however. Pooling rides, an optional service offered by the major ride-hailing companies, reduces vehicle miles traveled significantly.

As noted by Wilson, the study isn't the first to quantify the ways in which ride-hailing companies increase driving, rather than delivering reduced vehicle miles traveled as some had hoped when the business model went mainstream. A recent study showed that ride-hailing companies induce car ownership, and thus more driving. An earlier study showed that ride-hailing companies poach transit ridership.

Saturday, January 23, 2021 in Streetsblog USA

Rendering of electric scooters, electric cars, light rail train, and apartments in background.

Arizona’s ‘Car-Free’ Community Takes Shape

Culdesac Tempe has been welcoming residents since last year.

February 14, 2024 - The Cool Down

Aerial view of suburban sprawl with large single-family homes near Dallas, Texas.

The Changing Shape of American Suburbs

Housing costs and availability are pushing more American households, including young families, to suburbs and exurbs — and they’re demanding changes.

February 13, 2024 - Business Insider

Aerial view of New York City architecture with augmented reality visualization, blue digital holograms over buildings and skyscrapers

4 Ways to Use AI in Urban Planning and City Design

With the ability to predict trends, engage citizens, enhance resource allocation, and guide decision-making, artificial intelligence has the potential to serve as planners’ very own multi-tool.

February 20, 2024 - ArchDaily

Google street view of wide grassy median in Beverly Hills, California.

Beverly Hills Installs First ‘Green Street’

A three-block median featuring native plants and bioswales is part of the city’s broader effort to reduce water consumption and pollution.

7 hours ago - Beverly Press

Habitat for Humanity volunteers in construction helmets buildign a wood-frame house.

Habitat for Humanity and Missoula Land Trust Team up on Affordable Housing

The partnership will ensure the new homes will remain affordable for future buyers.

February 22 - KPAX

Orange California poppies in bloom over gently rolling hills in Southern California's Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve.

Experiencing California's Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve

Located in the western Mojave Desert, this stunning state natural reserve is renowned for its breathtaking displays of California poppies and has even been referred to as California's most beautiful place.

February 22 - California.com

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

The Walkable City

Harvard GSD Executive Education

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.