Study Claims Uber and Lyft Are Actually Producing More Pollution

Uber app 3 photos
Photo: Uber
Ride sharing and hailing are being touted as the two ways in which we could help reduce emissions without having to resort to using public transport, the quality of which varies quite drastically from place to place.
Many people are leaving their cars at home or reconsidering buying a car of their own based on claims that it’s better for the environment to hail or share a ride. But a study published recently by Transport & Environment says the exact opposite, stating that in big European cities, like Paris or London, services like Uber and Lyft are actually contributing to worsening emissions.

Taking London as an example, Transport & Environment argues that ever since Uber arrived in the British capital, private-hire trips have increased by a quarter. Uber had 45,000 drivers in London at the end of 2018, which accounted for half of all private hire vehicle trips and around the city.

This dramatic increase in the number of Uber drivers is claimed to be the root cause of a 23 percent increase in carbon dioxide emissions in London from 2012 to 2018. The source adds that private hire vehicles (this also includes taxis) accounted for around 12 percent of traffic during working days, despite the fact that they only actually make up 4 percent of all registered vehicles.

The study goes on to claim that in London, Paris and Brussels combined, Uber operations have added carbon dioxide into the air “as much as a quarter of a million average cars,” a fact only made worse (according to the study) by the fact that most vehicles that operate as Uber hire vehicles are diesels.

The solution for all this is not to close these two services that have clearly struck a chord with commuters, but instead to incentivize the use of greener vehicles with lower (or zero) tailpipe emissions.

Uber has, for instance, introduced Uber Green that allows uses to opt to be picked up by an electric vehicle, but EVs are nowhere near as common as internal-combustion cars, so wait times for app users are much higher.

Transport & Environment suggests that the solution to fix this problem of increasing emissions caused by Uber and Lyft is to force them to go fully emissions-free by 2025. But while steps will certainly be taken in this direction, it seems unlikely that there will be no gasoline- or diesel-burning vehicles in private hire vehicles in just five years’ time.
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