Study: Uber and Lyft could be adding traffic to Colorado roads

CU PhD Candidate poses as driver to do research

DENVER -- PhD Candidate Alejandro Henao drove for Uber and Lyft but not for the money, he was in it for the research.

That's because Henao is studying transportation engineering at the University of Colorado. His study found that ride-sharing companies could be contributing to the congestion on area roads, specifically looking at what mode of transportation people replaced with the service.

"If you think about it as a transportation engineer, before these people that were biking, walking or taking transit, we weren’t putting any miles from vehicles into the roads," said Henao.

As you can see in the pie chart below, those surveyed were asked how they would have traveled if Uber or Lyft was not available. Most answered they would have used public transportation, while others wouldn't have even traveled at all. 

Henao surveyed 311 passengers as he drove them around Denver, Boulder and the surrounding suburbs. In his car he displayed signs explaining his research project and asking riders to answer a few questions. He found that people were eager to talk about transportation.

The number of people who replaced transit, walking or biking with an Uber or Lyft was eye opening and Henao argues it adds more cars to the road. Thirty-four percent, or about 106 riders, would have taken another mode of transportation that was not their own personal car.

In addition to more cars, the research shows more miles are being added to our already crowded roads. Henao tracked the mileage from the moment someone requested a ride, before they ever got in the car. 

"These are fascinating companies," said Henao, who admits he loves to use Uber or Lyft when he goes out for date night with his wife. "It’s so easy for me to push a button request a car."

As a possible solution, he suggests sharing your ride using UberPOOL or Lyft Line.

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