Author Laura Bliss
Every convenience has its external costs, and economists love to count them.
With ride-hailing, the positive benefits to users, and society at large, are several. On-demand services like Uber and Lyft provide transportation in neighborhoods underserved by transit or taxis; safe rides home for late-night workers and partiers; and increased ease of access for people with disabilities, research has shown. There’s also some evidence that they reduce drunk driving. Besides providing a service to millions of riders, these companies are increasing access to safe mobility for groups that haven’t always had it.
But the growing demand for press-a-button transportation is coming from everybody, not just underserved riders. In cities, that is translating into more cars on the road. While the environmental and congestion impacts of this surge in vehicles have been much discussed, the potential uptick in traffic fatalities associated with Uber and Lyft usage has been one of ride-hailing’s lesser-studied negative externalities. In a new working paper, a team from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business is now attempting to pin this down. The authors estimate that 2 to 3 percent of the number of crashes in a given area can be attributed to the introduction of ride-hailing.