In pandemic times road traffic changed. Less cars on the road, less time stuck in a car commuting, and more time doing things in and around the home. In a KPMG report, their analysts predict that the impact of COVID-19 and restrictions may have permanently impacted the habits of automotive drivers and consumers, which could have big impacts on the auto industry.
On top of that, new drivers may have not had as many opportunities to exercise new driving skills and, in general, teens are just not jumping at the chance to drive as much as they once did leading to an increasing interest in alternative ways to get around. Plus, there’s the whole environmental impact of driving thing.
Rideshare has been a trending transit option for many over the last decade or so and replaces the need for teens to get their drivers license.
The concept was first launched in the early 2010s as a convenient, accessible, and potentially safer option (hailing a ride post happy hour rather than driving inebriated, for example). Over the years it has become an incredibly popular, albeit controversial, option for getting from point A to Z.
The real question is, as we move forward, is rideshare really going to be a sustainable and safer option for transit?
Rideshare: Accessible for Many, But Not Ideal for All
Almost everyone has a phone. So, the ability to download, set up an account, and start taking rideshare rides is much easier than trying to hail a taxi. Plus, you can easily tap in the address you are headed to and follow the route as you ride along.
This ease of access has made rideshare a game changer for those who are carless, may need to ride from an airport to a city center, or even travelers visiting a city while on vacation.
Along with this accessibility comes other issues though.
What about those who are wheelchair-bound? Do they have access to plentiful rideshare options? (Often, the answer is no, but companies are trying to change this.)
What about women? Do they feel safe hopping into a car with a strange male? The reality is that while many women are coming out with reports of inappropriate behavior, often the bigger issue is that many remain silent and unheard. Uber released a 2019 report that 3,045 sexual assaults were committed in Uber rides in 2018.
Other issues occur when waiting for a rideshare vehicle. Some passengers have mistakenly jumped into cars that have slowed down and that were not their Uber driver. These types of mistakes lead to very tragic and traumatic situations.
Plus, the rollout of rideshare companies actually coincides with a 3% increase in vehicle accident fatalities, according to a safety resource report from MKP Law Group, LLP. While quantifying the actual impact of more rideshare-driven cars on the roadways is difficult, studies also suggest that ride-sharing vehicles can lead to up to 160% more road traffic. More traffic often leads to more accidents.
Certainly, rideshare has its pros and cons in the short term, but how will it impact us in the long run? If we have fewer drivers in the future, we will need a longer-term solution for transit.
Is rideshare the answer?
Is Rideshare Good for the Environment?
The long of the short is: No.
Rideshare drives are typically concentrated in already dense, polluted urban areas. Having more cars on the road only contributes to continued exhaust emissions spilling out into the air.
Plus, rideshare cars disrupt the regular flow of traffic by stopping and starting. Drop-offs and pick-ups may be convenient for some, but on a grand scale it adds up to more time for other drivers navigating their commute or route.
Some ideas for greener rideshare are already in the works:
- A transition to electric or hybrid only vehicles
- Partnerships with local transit so uber users can purchase local transit options
- “Pool” rides, where multiple riders can combine separate rides into one similar route.
While these initiatives are a good starting point, they are for now mostly just ideas with no clear targets. The only way to make real changes is to map out a timeline to ensure that targets following environmental goals are set and met.
However, even if rideshare companies implement these kinds of changes, there are still more cars on the road and less people walking or biking or using public transport.
Ridin’ Around Sustainably: Public Transit vs Electric Vehicles
So kids, what will it be? Riding around in an electric rideshare or hopping on the public transit option of your choice?
What about a bike?
If we are looking at a longer term solution, one that will most dramatically make a difference for our environment, we are going to need more than one solution.
Some say that electric cars are indeed an option but alone aren’t going to do the trick — at least not alone. Electric cars are an easy fix in that individuals don’t have to change their day to day behavior, they simply need to replace the type of vehicle they drive around. While it’s clear that electric vehicles are much more environmentally friendly than gas and diesel engines the number of cars and batteries that need to be manufactured is easily in the millions.
Public transport on the other hand can reduce CO2 emissions dramatically and quickly. For example, according to a report on the Environmental Benefits of Public Transit, taking public transit instead of your car for a 20 minute commute every day could save 30% of carbon dioxide emissions. The problem is that most US cities are designed for cars. Not every city is built with an efficient and reliable public transit system. So even if you want to take public transit, it may not be an options.
For those focused on which option will make the biggest impact and cut emissions more quickly, maybe a bike is the better bet.