How did you waste time online before YouTube? No worries if it takes a minute to answer: It's almost like asking about what was there before the Big Bang. Some startups become so ubiquitous so fast, we can't imagine what it's like to live without them. When they change some fundamental part of your daily life, it's easy to stop questioning them altogether.
Ridesharing companies like Lyft and Uber are a sterling example of this phenomenon. The ease with which we can summon a car (for a given set of "we") has recalibrated how we plan our day and get around. But a new study released by the University of Colorado Denver suggests that we may want to put the brakes on ridesharing. The reason? It's massively inefficient.
Civil engineer Alejandro Henao signed up to become a driver for Uber and Lyft in 2016. He interviewed hundreds of passengers about why they'd hailed him, and found that "34 percent of his ride-hailing passengers would have taken transit, walked, or bicycled if ride-hailing hadn't existed," according to a press release. Other studies have found that riding the bus is one of the safest transit options available, and that biking to work isn't actually as much trouble as you think. There are also multiple labor questions still up in the air, but perhaps the biggest reason to put the brakes on ridesharing is much simpler: We have too many cars on the road now.
"For every 100 miles carrying passengers, Uber and Lyft drivers travel an additional 69 miles without a passenger, conservatively," CU Denver writes. That's a lot of gas and a lot of congestion for just waiting around. While ridesharing does seem like too good an idea to go away entirely, it may be worth it for all of us to consider what it really costs.