Urban Transport

Study finds ride-hailing trips result in 69 percent more CO2 emissions

Study finds ride-hailing trips...
Ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft are much more heavily polluting than private car trips, a new study has found
Ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft are much more heavily polluting than private car trips, a new study has found
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Ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft are much more heavily polluting than private car trips, a new study has found
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Ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft are much more heavily polluting than private car trips, a new study has found

As ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft have surged in popularity in the past decade, so too has the emissions arising from the transportation sector, according to a new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists. The researchers conducted an analysis of pollution from ride-hailing vehicles across seven major US cities, finding that these services generate 69 percent more carbon emissions than the trips that they replace.

The report titled “Ride-Hailing’s Climate Risks: Steering a Growing Industry toward a Clean Transportation Future” compared emissions from private car trips to those from ride-hailing companies in dense urban areas where services like Uber and Lyft are heavily relied upon.

These include Boston, New York City, San Francisco, Washington DC, and the analysis also compared these emissions to those arising from public transit and other modes of transport displaced by ride-hailing services. To arrive at their conclusions, the scientists relied on publicly available data, surveys of ride-hailing service users and other published literature on things like fleet fuel economy and what is known as “deadheading.”

Deadheading refers to the miles a ride-hailing vehicle travels with no passenger onboard, typically after dropping one off and before picking up another. This is a large contributor to excess pollution, according to the team’s report, with a non-pooled ride-hailing trip producing almost 50 percent more carbon emissions than a private car trip, on average.

Another significant factor is the low-carbon forms of transport that are often replaced by ride-hailing services for convenience’s sake. These include walking, cycling and public transit, and taking these into account, the scientists calculated that in total, a ride-hailing trip generates 69 percent more carbon emissions than the trip it replaces, on average. A pooled ride-hailing trip shared between two passengers, meanwhile, produces similar emissions to a private car trip.

Further, a ride-hailing trip in an electric vehicle can cut emissions by around 50 percent, while if that trip is pooled, it can cut emissions by almost 70 percent. The scientists recommend that the industry move swiftly to electrify these vehicles and do more to promote pooled trips. In addition, they say that ride-hailing companies must do more to connect with and complement public transit routes, while governments can develop policies that support these objectives.

Uber has carried out more than 10 billion trips around the world since launching in 2010, where Lyft has completed more than a billion. While they now far outnumber taxi ridership in the US, the scientists say a lot of these lessons can be applied to that industry too, with electrification, more pooling and better coordination with mass transit services all reasonable steps that taxi operators can take to help reduce pollution in urban areas.

The full report can be read here, while the video below explores some customer habits regarding ride-hailing services.

Uber and Lyft Facts: How Clean Are They Actually?

Source: Union of Concerned Scientists

4 comments
aksdad
Looks like virtue-signaling, image-conscious travelers should catch a unicorn powered by rainbows and pixie dust instead. The rest of us will have to settle for the convenience and lower cost of cars spewing plant food from their tailpipes. That's CO2, in case you didn't know.
paul314
No real surprise here. Add thousands of vehicles driving around urban areas hoping to pick up passengers, and you add their pollution as well. The original "ride-sharing" idea might have been better, but unlicensed taxis that can't actually pick up passengers without an intermediary, not so much.
Username
How do they compare to conventional taxis?
ljaques
The "scientist" in the video sure didn't know her stats. And I believe that the numbers the UCS comes up with are probably triple greenwashed before they're satisfied they've come up with the number they originally wanted. I guess their motto is "Damn the Science. Full Green Ahead!" And until there are Unicorns on call, I'll be driving my full size pickup around, full or empty of lumber/green waste/Salvation Army donations, for fewer than 1,000 miles per year.