Uber: Traffic Congestion’s Cure or Epidemic?

Since launching in 2010, Uber has grown into a transportation giant, claiming over 50% of the ride-hauling market. The popularity of Uber stems from the convenience and affordability of their rides. Exact cost is calculated based on weather, demand and other unpredictable factors. Uber has long claimed that it can help reduce traffic by getting people into shared rides and eliminating circling in search of parking, but does it actually?

Uber’s “Mission”

Uber’s mission statement and vision “Bringing Transportation everywhere. Smarter Transportation with fewer cars and greater access.”, is somewhat hypocritical. They go against their very own vision of having “fewer cars”, by contributing a 180% increase in total traffic just by offering the service. If you stop and think about it, like any transportation method, the daily usage rates go through peaks and lows. Therefore, Uber drivers spend a portion of their shift just driving around waiting for another job. This directly adds more cars, CO2 emissions and worse traffic congestion to cities.

According to usage statistics over 65% of users are below the age of 34, with the majority being high school or college student age. The hypocrisy of Uber claiming that they reduce congestion is almost laughable. Their key demographic are students who often have access to free/discounted public transportation systems. So, the app is actually taking users away from provided public transportation for the convenience of direct travel routes. Therefore, the service is inevitably putting more individual vehicles/travelers on the road and again adding to traffic congestion.

Helping or Hurting?

With the growing importance of climate change and alternative transportation, Uber’s direct competition with public transit is horrifying. In its 2019 IPO Uber announced the importance of continuous growth. Then introduced the intention of grabbing a hold of the multi trillion-dollar market share currently occupied by public transit. With Uber’s greed threatening to further disrupt the delicate balance of public transit, it is important now more than ever to understand the impact this would have. By taking users from public transit into individual cars the volume of road traffic increases. This in turn makes commutes longer and more costly, no matter the transportation method.

Also, reducing the users of public transit reduces overall efficiency, making it ineffective to offer transit if citizens aren’t going to use it. The direct impact of the shift from public transit to ride hauling will be seen in higher priced Uber rides. This a result of less competition and an increased traffic volume and ridership demand. This will impact everyone, but especially lower-class families and citizens who rely on affordable public transit. They will be stuck with choosing between higher priced or now inefficient travel methods.

What users aren’t aware of is: yes, the service may be introducing ride sharing and taking away from the use of personal vehicles. But, for each mile of personal driving that is ‘eliminated’ they add 2.8 miles of professional driving. The misconception that Uber decreases road congestion is used to cover up their capitalist ambitions with disregard to societal impact. Wrongfully informed users believe they are saving money and helping solve transportation problems. Thus, people continue to use the ride-hauling service religiously, with no second-thought.

True Colours

The low cost is definitely appealing, and the convenience aspect is hard to beat. But is society really willing to turn our heads away from the negative impacts of Uber to save a few bucks?  Walking, biking and public transit are all viable, cost effective options that ACTUALLY reduce congestion! Added vehicle volume, increased congestion and in turn increased emissions (contributing to global warming); what is the turning point that will make users say adios to Uber?

Photo credit: Flickr

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