By on November 14, 2015


The National Resources Defense Council’s Urban Solution program will study the impact ride-sharing services have on the environment, the group announced Friday. The study will be conducted with the University of California Berkley Transportation Sustainability Research Center to determine what environmental impacts services such as Lyft and Uber have on pollution and congestion.

” … Others wonder if these companies are competing with public transit, substituting for walking and biking trips, or perhaps adding more cars to the road,” wrote Amanda Eaken, a researcher for the NRDC, a non-profit environmental group.

The study follows increased scrutiny on whether the ride-sharing services were putting more cars — not less — on roads around the world.

In June, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio dropped his plan to limit Uber cars on the road, according to the New York Times. Instead, that city would study for four months whether the car-sharing service was taking revenue away from mass transportation and adequately accommodating disabled passengers.

Eaken told The Verge that her group would comprehensively study the companies’ impact.

“We don’t yet understand what impact Uber and Lyft are having on our transportation system,” she said. “Some people speculate that they are enabling people to live in cities without owning a car, which both saves them money — average cost to own a car is $9,000 a year — but also we know when people don’t own cars they drive less. No big surprise.

“There could certainly be environmental benefits from these companies. On the other hand, some speculate that people are using Uber and Lyft instead of walking, biking, or transit. So there could be a detrimental effect.”

According to Eaken, the results will be published next fall.

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36 Comments on “Study Aims To Determine If Ride-sharing Services Are Putting More Cars on The Road...”

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    Aaron, do you mean the “Natural Resources Defense Council”?

  • avatar

    “but also we know when people don’t own cars they drive less. No big surprise.”

    No, not at all. Don’t you love truisms? When I owned no car and lived in London, I didn’t drive AT all, not just less. Gosh, who would have guessed?

    The big surprise is that someone somewhere has actually funded this bunch of nuclear scientists to see if internet taxis affect road usage. Does this really matter? Common sense would suggest it’s hard to tease out meaningful data from the “noise”. More importantly, where can I get some of this easy-to-acquire grant money?

    You see, society needs to know if IHOPs cause local traffic congestion at breakfast/morning commute time, or an hour and a half later when the seniors stagger in for brunch and cannot turn into the sharp entrance with just one attempt and have to back up a couple of times.

    Being an old fogey myself and not infrequently feeling an overpowering urge to consume a half-dozen pancakes covered in high fructose corn syrup (hic) and bad coffee, I’d like to know when the best time to visit IHOP is. Hence my request for grant money to answer a pressing societal question.

    • 0 avatar

      I recently went to the Waffle House for the first time. It was great and I think it destroyed IHOP, but we are going to need a study so we can finally declare the debate over and silence the IHOP-loving denialists.

      Anecdotally, I recently traveled to a place where I would normally rent a car. Used Uber instead. Saved me money and time and resulted in one less car on the street. I think Uber probably results in fewer cars on the road, fewer cars rented, and maybe even fewer cars purchased.

      I’m sure there are some safe, comfortable and convenient public transit alternatives, but my experiences have led me to avoid it whenever possible. Uber rocks.

    • 0 avatar

      Dude, you’re dealing with progressives, here. Not literate people capable of doing something useful with their lives.

      • 0 avatar

        @stuki You just described the emperor’s new wardrobe.

        First they will demonize ridesharing, then “discover” that private car ownership is even worse, and finally arrive at the startling conclusion that in order to prevent global warming, we must ban first driven cars, and finally remove even autonomous cars from the road, leaving only bicycles, subways and busses.

        Then they will notice that the busses pollute, and that they must go too. Finally, new subways will use too many natural resources, and we will all be forced to get around on the supply of bicycles already in existence.

        At which point, I should be able to sell my three medium-crappy bicycles for six figures each. No, wait, I will still need one to get to the grocery store and the doctor.

        But even if the air and the temperature are no better, we will be told that they would have been worse if we hadn’t banned all those twentieth century monstrosities from society for our own good.

        Oh, last minute news flash! They will discover that the work that still remains to be done to save us from ourselves, will require even more meetings, conferences and colloquia on transportation and the environment, and that stretch limosines for these noble environmental warriors will actually be a net benefit to society, so they will still be able to tool around in them, carefully monitoring us to make sure that no one has a red barchetta squirreled away anywhere.

        It might take them a while, and they might never get there…but I can assure you that there are elitists out there who believe it.

        There was even one crackpot on the newsgroup rec.backcountry a couple or three decades ago who was certain that the world would be destroyed if we didn’t ban human beings from almost all of the surface of the earth.

        The hardcore idealistic do-gooders will stop at nothing, in their pursuit of a plan to plan out everyone’s lives except their own.

    • 0 avatar

      What a weird rant. The funny thing is that we apparently _don’t know_ how internet taxis affect road usage. Considering that Uber and Lyft have significantly changed the transportation environment of just about every major city in the developed world, I’d say it’s worth finding out. Heck, if anything, people who care about cars and driving should want this information more than anyone else, so that we can get road, traffic and transit planning that takes the new reality into account. (And as searching the TTAC site for “Uber” in Google yields 2,380 hits, this seems to be a topic that TTAC readers are interested in.)

      As for “Common sense would suggest it’s hard to tease out meaningful data from the ‘noise,\'” well, duh. That’s why the research is being done by a bunch of “nuclear scientists” at Berkeley, and not by a guy on the internet who just wants to go to IHOP.

      • 0 avatar
        heavy handle

        It’s not so weird. It’s just a manifestation of the “proud to be ignorant” movement. Some people are easily brainwashed into thinking that everything is too confusing, therefore they should let others think for them. Add to that the notion that you should support political ideas like you support your local sports franchise (even when they are obviously wrong), and you get this.

      • 0 avatar
        Lack Thereof

        This is has been a big topic of debate in environmental circles for a long time now. Once faction says that these services probably reduce energy use based on the number of people who would otherwise have owned and thus more frequently used cars. The other faction says that these services probably increase energy use by replacing walking for people who *already* don’t own cars. The first faction points out that Taxis have always existed for those people, the second retorts that taxis have always sucked.

        NRDC’s dues-paying membership was going to demand, sooner or later, that they announce a position on this issue. It behooves them to spend some money on a rigorous study to get a legitimate answer.

        • 0 avatar

          Yup. And kudos to them for seeking a legitimate answer, instead of just deciding which knee-jerk reaction to have based on talk radio and a lingering annoyance that science nerds have jobs.

      • 0 avatar

        Actual data might make it harder for people like the poster you were responding to to go on talk-radio-style rants. Ranting is fun, so actual data are bad.

  • avatar

    Isn’t Uber currently a front for automonous license dominance in the near future? In the same way transportation companies lobby for landing rights at international airports?

  • avatar

    Nice ensemble match: black car, black clothes, black eye.

    He should trigger an Airborne Sleaze Alert; a clone of whom I always met when setting foot into VW dealerships.

  • avatar

    Uber appears to replace drunk drivers on the road. Meanwhile, stupid study is stupid.

  • avatar

    I think New-Yorkers elected De Blasio for a reason and the good one. Initially he wanted to restrict Uber’s access to NY streets and now it looks like he decided to do it based on scientific facts like global warming which New Yorkers cannot deny. Uber destroys the livelihoods of imigrands and working people in general and and even worse – contributes to Global Warming. Good job Bill! People are happy walking and riding bicycles.

  • avatar

    Diet is the #1 factor causing cars – and more cars – to be on the road. Housing is #2.

    If you didn’t have to eat and didn’t have to feed your family, or, pay for shelter, you could likely do without one.

    • 0 avatar

      And if it wasn’t for the retardocracy’s uncritical embrace of all things retarded, in this case specifically zoning laws, you could both live and eat within walking distance of where you worked. With or without Uber.

      • 0 avatar

        Can you imagine how awful that would be? That’s what zoning departments all across the country would tell you.

      • 0 avatar

        Yet when someone wants to build a big apartment block anywhere within half a mile of a single-family home, people like you always suddenly love zoning laws.

        Tip: in big cities like the one I live in, most of the “progressives” you despise are anti-zoning, and the conservatives are pro-zoning because they hate any form of housing other than a single-family house and see it as the camel’s nose under the tent of the sinister liberal conspiracy to make us all into Soviets.

        • 0 avatar

          Actually in the Russian SFSR outside of significant corruption and the lack of consumer goods, I think things were probably better than some parts of this nation in 2015. Things may have varied in the other SSRs.

          FWIW I would like to buy or build a small apartment building (4-6 units) and live in it myself. I would include everything in rent if I could and price it enough to cover an aggregate value of utilities which I wouldn’t charge to myself per se. I wouldn’t do it for the profit motive, I would do it to keep my own living expenses to the minimum and have equity to borrow against in the future and I would never take Section Eight under any circumstances. I think the issue NIMBYs have with multi family housing is investors buy it to turn a buck and do no care who occupies the property or the condition of the property because they don’t have any skin in the game as I would. Many see Section Eight as a weapon of the progressives/communists/zionists/other isms etc. Things are in general so upside down right now I do wonder how things will turn out down the line (ZIRP, Federal debt, unwinnable wars, lack of border control etc).

          I had a tutor in college who was born in Poland just before the onset of the Second World War and spent half his life under Polish Communism before emigrating in 1968. You might say he had a unique perspective having spent half his life here and half behind the Iron Curtain. Evidently in Poland you were simply told, if you do not work than you do not eat. I am not sure how this policy worked in practice, but it certainly sounds common sense.

  • avatar

    More tax dollars down the drain.

  • avatar

    Natural Resources Defense Council.

    What a great name for an anti-human doomsday cult.

  • avatar

    First, let’s be clear on our desired conclusion.

    Second, let’s design the study to support that.

    Nothing new here.

  • avatar

    My guess is that ridesharing increases traffic because it eases mobility — there would be fewer trips without it. Its main benefit from a public policy standpoint is that it reduces the need for parking, which is a positive.

    Incidentally, it’s spelled “Berkeley.”

  • avatar

    Hippies won’t be happy until we are riding horses. Free range horses that gave us permission to ride them and fed an only organic, local sourced, diet. Oh, and they have to sleep in your teepee, sharing the same natural straw you sleep on covered in a hemp fiber blanket.

  • avatar

    Basically Uber is a way to let anyone use their car as a taxi. This does nothing to reduce use of cars. Maybe the taxi companies should adopt technology like Uber uses. And “ride sharing” could be implemented as what its name implies: if you’re going somewhere anyway and wish to take someone along for a nominal fee, then post your upcoming ride. The facilitating app/business would match people wanting rides with people driving somewhere anyway.

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