Ride-sharing can revolutionise our cities

Ride-sharing and ride-hailing services have the potential to change the urban fabric by removing unnecessary vehicles from the road. Inefficient, unused roadways could be transformed into vibrant, pedestrian-friendly urban spaces.

What started off as an alternative to traditional taxi and limo services is slowly becoming the standard commute for many people. The convenience and affordability of ride-sharing and ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft are leading many young people in urban centres to rethink their need to own a personal vehicle.

As Patrick Russell reports for TechCrunch, urban planners see an exciting possibility for cities in in this trend. Simply put, when ride-sharing services are combined with ride-hailing technology, they remove unneeded cars from the streets. According to Russell, the average European car sits idle for 92 per cent of its time; in the US a car is in use only 4 per cent of the time – the equivalent of 15 days’ worth of time over an entire year.

A ride-sharing vehicle, on the other hand, is practically in use throughout the entire day – and therefore used more efficiently. A 2010 report from UC Berkeley’s Transportation Sustainability Research Center found that one car-sharing vehicle removes 9 to 13 vehicles from their road. According to Russell, shared automated vehicles (SAVs) that incorporate dynamic ride-sharing (DRS) software – available to users through the power of their smartphones – make ride-sharing even more efficient by reducing fuel consumption by around 16 per cent and emissions by nearly 50 per cent.

When inefficient, unnecessary vehicles are removed from the roads, it opens up the door to radically redesign cities. Municipalities could dismantle the 20th century infrastructure devoted to cars and transform that reclaimed land into pedestrian-friendly, human-scaled environments, says Russell.

A six-lane highway, for example, could be reduced to two lanes, with the freed up space given to bicycles and tree-lined boulevards – and space to develop row houses along the edge. “With the rising unaffordability of the nation’s fastest-growing cities and the scarcity of real estate in urban cores to meet consumer demand, ride-sharing leveraged by ride-hailing apps just might be our saving grace,” writes Russell.


Photo credit: SmartSign, flickr/Creative Commons

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