Ride-sharing services Lyft and Uber may appear to make travel more convenient in big cities, but San Francisco says they've actually made traffic worse.
A study conducted by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority showed average speeds during morning hours decreased by 26 percent since 2009. In the evening, traffic speeds dropped 27 percent. Additionally, vehicle hour delays increased by 40,000 hours on a typical weekday and miles traveled on local roads jumped 630,000 miles. Translation: Uber and Lyft mean more vehicles on the road, and they're clogging up streets.
Lyft and Uber have become popular alternatives to public transportation and taxis in major cities. The study found ride-sharing services made up an estimated 62 million trips in 2016, or 15 percent of all vehicle trips in the city. To be fair, population increases and new jobs have also had their effect on traffic increases, but ride-sharing services have overwhelmingly contributed to the congestion. About 50 percent of congestion changes can be attributed to Lyft and Uber.
Why have such services caused so much havoc? The study dug deeper to find between 43 percent and 61 percent of Lyft or Uber rides are a substitute for public transit, a walk, or bike travel. Further, some riders responded they wouldn't have made a particular trip at all if it weren't for a ride-sharing company. Passenger pick-up and drop-off may also be a factor, as drivers disturb curb traffic flow as they serve customers.
Finally, Lyft and Uber drivers position themselves in optimal locations to increase rides, which adds more vehicles to already congested areas.
To help ease some of the congestion, both companies plan to work with the city to impose a new tax on ride-sharing trips. Single riders will be charged a 3.25 percent rate, while shared rides will be subject to a 1.5 percent rate.
The tax is scheduled to take effect in January 2020 and is projected to add $30 million to the city's transportation improvement fund.