Public Transit Still Rules Rush Hour in Cities


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But that doesn't mean ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft don't play an important role in addressing local mobility challenges, according to a new report.

The use of public transit and ridesharing varies between cities with no clear correlation, but it’s not until evenings and weekends that app-based services like Uber and Lyft excel, according to a recently released report from the Shared-Use Mobility Center, a Chicago-based public interest organization.

The use of TNCs, or transportation network companies, spanned all income brackets in Chicago, Los Angeles, Nashville, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C., according to the “Broadening Understanding of the Interplay Between Public Transit, Shared Mobility and Personal Automobiles” report. Most TNC trips were short and limited to urban cores and airports and not used for longer daily commuting.

But when TNCs were frequently relied upon, car ownership went down, according to the report.

“In a congested environment, generally nothing is more efficient at moving lots of people than public transit,” Sharon Feigon, the center’s executive director, said in a statement. “But we can see where TNCs fit into the gaps where the transit systems don't work as well.”

“We want to create an ecosystem of choices to create a multimodal system that can work for all,” she added.

What that system should look like depends on the size of the city.

Large urban areas should prioritize rail, bus rapid transit and bus-only lanes while designating curb space for ridesharing pickups and dropoffs and entering public-private partnerships for late night, call-and-ride and paratransit services, according to the report.

Meanwhile, midsize metro areas should partner with TNCs to address their first- and last-mile challenges with commuters accessing public transit. SUMC also recommended adopting carpooling and parking programs aimed at discourage driving.

Small cities have the greatest need for partnerships with ridesharing companies to provide complete commuter coverage while focusing on delivering key public transit routes.

SUMC’s report looked at origin-destination data provided by an undisclosed ridesharing company in five study regions and modeled that information for San Francisco, in addition to rider surveys of more than 10,000 people.

“Rail and bus service remain central to the commutes of most urban dwellers who aren't driving alone,” Colin Murphy, SUMC director of research and consulting, said in a statement. “And TNCs don't appear to be changing that big picture in the cities we looked at."  

A separate report released Wednesday by the Southern California Association of Governments that examines the decrease in transit use in the Los Angeles area looked at the possible impacts TNCs have been playing. The report, prepared by the UCLA Institute for Transportation Studies, found that increasing car ownership—including in lower-income households that have traditionally been heavily reliant on public transit—has been a major player in declining use of L.A.-area buses and trains, not by major commuting shifts from transit to TNCs like Uber and Lyft.

Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor at Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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