When Uber and Lyft enter cities, vehicle ownership increases

When ridesourcing companies Uber and Lyft show up in urban areas, vehicle registrations per capita increase by 0.7% on average, increasing even more in car-dependent cities. Researchers reporting in the journal iScience on January 6 made this discovery by analyzing data from major US cities between 2011 to 2017, comparing trends in cities where Uber and Lyft entered with those where they didn’t. They also found that Uber and Lyft displace transit more in cities with higher income and fewer children.

“I would have expected people to own fewer vehicles once they gain access to this alternative transportation mode,” says Jeremy Michalek, a professor of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University and co-author on the study. “But that’s not what we see in the data. One possible explanation could be that there’s an effect on the other side, where somebody who was on the verge of being able to afford a vehicle now has an incentive to buy one and earn some money with it. So vehicle adoption by Uber and Lyft drivers may outweigh the effect of riders getting rid of their personal vehicles.”