Many policy makers and researchers say Uber and Lyft have contributed to the drop in mass-transit ridership.
A paper from University of Kentucky civil-engineering professors presented last year at the Transportation Research Board estimates that after Lyft and Uber enter a city, bus ridership will decrease by 1.7% a year and subway ridership by 1.3% a year, based on data from 22 U.S. cities.
However, the research on ride-hailing's effect on mass-transit ridership isn't unanimous and Uber and Lyft have pointed to other studies showing how ride-hailing complements transit, as riders use it to get to a train or bus. A 2018 paper in the Journal of Urban Economics by a trio of economists found Uber increases ridership by 5% after two years of being introduced in a city.
Lyft for years advertised in subways and on bus shelters around the country. One New York City subway ad campaign described Lyft as "the most affordable ride in town." Uber's prospectus ahead of its 2019 initial public offering mentioned it competes with public transit for some rides.
In Chicago, city officials blame Uber and Lyft for part of the Chicago Transit Authority's ridership decline in recent years; trips in the city's central Loop fell 5% from 2015 to 2018.
Data the ride-hailing companies provided to the city show that 77% of trips in downtown are requested by one party, the rest being shared rides. Ride-hailing trips starting or ending in the downtown totaled over 158 million miles in 2018, up 309% from 2015, the city found.
In New York, weekday, daytime traffic speeds in Manhattan below Central Park fell 11% between 2014 and 2019 to 7.1 miles an hour, a slowdown transportation officials blame in part on the growth of ride-hailing. The city estimates ride-hailing cars and other for-hire-vehicles -- excluding taxis -- make up nearly 30% of all traffic south of 60th Street.
On a recent Saturday, Cara Burke was hurrying to make a dinner reservation from her East Village apartment and opted for an Uber over the subway or walking in the hope of getting there in 10 minutes. Instead, the ride lasted 25 minutes as the car sat stuck in traffic.
"I could've just gotten there for free or for $2.75 in the same amount of time," Ms. Burke says. Her Uber driver was just as frustrated, telling her he should have stayed in Brooklyn instead of coming to Manhattan.
Francesca Fontana contributed to this article.
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