Why I don’t do Uber

I know a lot of people love the convenience of ride-sharing ride-sourcing services (RSs). I just can’t go there. I keep using taxis when I need them. And I’ve got my reasons.

It’s clear that these RSs have cut into the taxi market. Who drives taxis? Lots of immigrant (often nonwhite) men. And the municipal revenue that is generated from taxi licenses is also cut as fewer licenses are sought.

RS drivers obviously provide a substitute for taxi trips, but they are not subject to the same regulations and insurance requirements. If someone pays you to drive them somewhere, that’s a commercial use. That’s not ‘ride-sharing.’ And it definitely isn’t sharing if you wouldn’t have even been on the road otherwise.

If RS users have substituted away from taxis because they want a cheaper alternative, that has labor consequences. Lower prices almost always come with lower wages. So that means lower wages for immigrant (often nonwhite) men due to declining taxi demand. What about RS drivers? The overwhelming majority do this as a part-time side job. I certainly don’t begrudge anyone seeking more income. But is this the best way?

“Female cabbies are rare in Philly, but ride-sharing [sic] apps have opened new avenues for women drivers.” (source) Of course! Another low-paid job has sprung up; it’s perfect for the ladies. And they get to do more work, by providing emotional labor too. “When I get female customers now, especially late at night, they’re so thankful,” says Lyft driver Rasheedah Ahmad. (ibid) I bet they are.

And then there are the environmental impacts. I can’t tell you how often I am walking or biking around center city and a car pulls over to the curb in front of me, either to pick up or drop off a passenger. It’s obviously an RS because there’s one driver in the front and one passenger in the back. And they’re doodling away on their phones, presumably in the RS app.

What is the ‘next best alternative’? What would be happening if the RS didn’t exist?

The car companies, unsurprisingly, are bullish on their environmental impact. “By using Lyft to share rides, passengers are helping to reduce the carbon footprint left by our country’s dominant mode of transportation – driving alone,” said Tommy Hayes, the transportation policy manager at Lyft, in an emailed statement. (source)

Um, really? Sure, there are two people in the car during the paid trip, but the driver had to get to the passenger. And if the passenger gets another RS to go home, the driver again has to get to the passenger. That is more driving, not less.

And what would the passengers do if they couldn’t use a RS?

Source: Shaheen and Chan (2015)

Eight percent of people would have stayed home. And a full 33% would have taken transit. 33%!!! And 39% would have taken a taxi. So while it is true that RSs are biting into the taxi market, that is not the majority of the effect.

And I love this quote:

Uber emphasizes that it is helping to reduce the need for personal car ownership. “Uber helps use today’s existing infrastructure more efficiently at no extra cost by getting more butts into the backseats of fewer cars,” a company spokesperson says. (ibid)

Huh? Where is the evidence to support that claim? You see more butts, eh?

What about all the RS drivers who are out driving SOLELY to take passengers to and fro? They are not ride-SHARING. They are ride-SELLING. I would rather they stay home and find another way to make money.

I don’t want to give myself an excuse to eschew public transit or not ride my bike. I don’t want to support a(nother) market that underpays women for more work. I don’t want to take work away from immigrant men. And I don’t want to support more people driving when they don’t need to. So you’ll see me on my Fuji or the 11 trolley. Maybe you’ll even see me in a yellow cab, but only if absolutely necessary.

Author: Tattooed Economist

{seeker, student, teacher, explorer, warrior, companion} My first career was economics professor, specializing in labor, econometrics, and education. I now run Eating for the Ecosystem, Inc. whose predominately-female crews offer landscaping and tree services. Before you ask, most economists are assholes, but most plants are not.

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