A new study published this week by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority and the University of Kentucky, found that ride-share cars were responsible for more than half of the increase of traffic congestion in the city of San Francisco . The study, which was published in
journal “Science Advances,” concluded that commuters spent 62 percent more time in traffic in 2016 than they did in 2010, which was the year ride sharing companies like Uber and Lyft became available in San Francisco.
The researchers tracked ride-share pickups and drop-offs in San Francisco during a six-week period in 2016. They found that most occurred in parts of the city that already were highly congested and at times when traffic was at its worst, concluding that rather than taking cars off the road, ride-share apps were increasing traffic congestion in downtown San Francisco.
After finding that traffic levels in San Francisco had increased sharply from 2010 to 2016, researchers used a computer simulation to show how traffic would have changed over the same six-year period in the absence of ride-sharing and found that traffic rose only 22 percent in the “counterfactual” model.
These results lead us to conclude that transportation network companies are the biggest factor driving the rapid growth of congestion and deterioration of travel time reliability in San Francisco,” the researchers wrote. “These findings are of interest to transportation planners, to policy makers and to the general public in San Francisco and other large cities.”
The question remains, what do major cities like Chicago do with this data? Can Chicago transportation officials conclude that the continued traffic congestion in our city is being caused by the influx in ride share users? I think it is pretty clear cities like Chicago need to continue to invest in public transportation. They have done so in the past few years, but improvements are still needed. I think city officials need to consider additional train lines that could cover more parts of the West and Northwest sides of the city. Further, city officials along with CTA, need to focus on making public transportation as smooth, safe and enjoyable for rider as possible. They should attempt to make the rider want to use a bus or train (i.e. making the stations safe as possible along with shorter commute times).
Also, the city needs to continue, as it has done, to invest in bicycle lanes and bike sharing. This was a major focus of Rahm Emanuel’s administration. Let’s hope that incomiming mayor Lori Lightfoot continues to invest in these initiatives.
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