Very different cities can benefit from ride sharing

A new study shows that urban ride sharing is feasible in a wide variety of cities around the world. It found that shareability is influenced by the way we organise our lives, rather than city layout.

The newly published study examined data from San Francisco, New York City, Singapore and Vienna – all of which have varying city layouts and population densities – to determine their potential for ride sharing, e.g. sharing a taxi with other passengers traveling along similar routes.

The researchers found that over 99 per cent of trips in New York are shareable – and about 97 per cent of trips in San Francisco, Singapore, and Vienna are, too. In other words, the ride sharing potential in those cities is so similar that they all obey some “global law of ride-sharing,” Carlo Ratti, director of MITs Senseable City Lab and co-author of the paper, said in a statement.

Co-author Paolo Santi, a research scientist at the Senseable City Lab and senior researcher at the Italian National Research Council (CNR), called the results “particularly surprising” because the cities studied have very different layouts. For him, this indicates that sharehability is influenced more by the way our lives are organised and less by the city layout.

For instance, despite Vienna’s relatively lower density, the ride sharing potential is high due to similar daily mobility patterns among the city’s residents. The paper also predicted the ride sharing potential in 30 other cities around the world. Berlin and London fall on the low end of the shareability spectrum, while other, more dense cities such as Amsterdam and Prague have better sharing possibilities.

The growing presence of ride-sharing services such as ZipCar and Car2Go all indicate that ride sharing may become a larger part of the urban transportation mix, easing congestion and reducing emissions and air pollution.

“Today [individual] cars are used only 5 per cent of the time,” Ratti said. “So if we’re able to change those numbers a little bit, the impact could be big.”


Image credit: Steve Calcott, flickr/Creative Commons

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