The New Automobility: Lyft, Uber and the Future of American Cities

This research report, The New Automobility: Lyft, Uber and the Future of American Cities, was written by Bruce Schaller, Principal of Schaller Consulting, to further public understanding and discussion of the role that app-based ride services and other vehicle-for-hire services can and should play in furthering urban mobility, safety, and environmental goals. Rideshare service providers, such as Uber and Lyft, are referred to as Transportation Network Companies (TNCs). Besides TNCs, micro transit companies such as Via and Chariot and more recently dockless bike share and electric scooter offerings are showing on city streets.

The rise of mobile-driven transportation services brought some challenging questions to municipal and civic officials in cities across the country. Are these new mobility options friendly to city goals for mobility, safety, equity and environmental sustainability? What risks do they pose for clogging traffic or poaching riders from transit? What will happen when self-driving-vehicles are added to ride-hail fleets? One question of interest by many people is, does rideshare alleviate or worsen traffic congestion? This research attempted to answer these questions.

This research found that TNC services are concentrated within densely-populated metropolitan areas (Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington DC). Young people (age 25-34) with good income and good education are more likely using rideshare. The research also showed that the traditional taxi services are marginalized by the domination of TNC services in large urban areas. Taxi services are still reliant by people living in suburban and rural areas, and people with disabilities and those without smartphones.

More importantly, this research revealed that TNCs added billions of miles of driving in the nation’s largest metro areas at the same time that car ownership grew more rapidly than the population. TNCs compete mainly with public transportation, walking, and biking, drawing customers from these non - auto modes based on the speed of travel, convenience, and comfort. That means TNCs do not reduce personal vehicle usage which could consequently alleviate traffic congestion. Instead, TNCs may drive the public transit out of business.

Im summary, rideshare services such as Lyft and Uber have already surpassed traditional taxi services in many US cities and is set to surpass local bus ridership in the US by the end of the year. Although some advocates hoped rideshare services would reduce the need for individuals to own their own vehicles, and therefore reduce congestion in urban areas, it is estimated that such services add 2.6 vehicle mile traveled for every mile of personal driving removed. This is because rideshare trips are not replacing personal automotive trips, but rather are replacing non-automotive trips, such as walking, biking or taking public transit.

In the conclusion, this report credited TNCs for convenience, flexibility, and a nimbleness to search for the fit between new services and inadequately served markets. The report warned that big American cities may become overwhelmed with more automobility, more traffic, and less transit and drained of the density and diversity which are indispensable to their economic and social well-being. Thus, the development of ride services must take place within a public policy framework that harnesses their potential to serve the goals of mobility, safety, equity and environmental sustainability. 


Schaller, B. (2018, July 25). The New Automobility: Lyft, Uber and the Future of American Cities. Schaller Consulting. Brooklyn NY. Retrieved from 

1 comment:

  1. Great analysis. Ride hailing services like Uber has transformed the market in significant ways. As a fellow airport taxi booking company, I found this information helpful. Thank you for sharing this. Looking forward for more such insightful articles. Cab Watford