Is Ride Sharing Deepening Inequality?

In the latest made-up panic of the year, ride sharing is supposedly “deepening social and economic inequity.” According to Tracey Lindemen, writing in Vice magazine, it’s doing that by stealing riders from public transit, which forces transit systems to cut their services, reducing the mobility of transit-dependent people.

In fact, Linderman has it backwards: public transit is the source of income inequality, while ride sharing can reduce it.

Linderman claims that “Public transit used to be the great equalizer,” but that was never true. Before cars, transit was used by the middle class, but the working class couldn’t afford it. The Model T Ford was the great equalizer, bringing mobility to those who couldn’t afford transit. In 1910, no more than a quarter of Americans regularly used transit. By 1926, over half of American families owned a car.

By 1960 or so, at least outside of New York City, transit was mainly used by a minority who couldn’t drive (and didn’t have someone like a parent to drive them) and an even smaller minority who still couldn’t afford a car. Those with short memories then argued that transit was needed to provide equal mobility to those who couldn’t drive, but in fact mass-produced automobiles brought mobility to far more people than public transit ever did.

Even after 1960, transit was far from an equalizer. The service it provided was so inferior to cars that it created a two-class society: those who had access to cars and those who didn’t. To make matters worse, the public takeover of the nation’s transit industry, which mostly took place between 1965 and 1975, steeply increased the costs of transit. Take away the subsidies to both transit and highways and driving is far less expensive.

Instead of increasing inequality, ride sharing promises to reduce it. A recent study concluded that commuting by ride sharing costs less than driving to work in many urban areas. If ride sharing is cheaper than driving, and driving is cheaper than transit, then why do we need transit?

Instead of spending $50 billion a year subsidizing transit, we should take a small fraction of that and give low-income people vouchers to use Uber, Chariot, or other private transportation options. That would save taxpayers’ money and provide better mobility for people who don’t drive. And thus ride sharing becomes an equalizer while making people dependent on transit generated inequity.

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6 thoughts on “Is Ride Sharing Deepening Inequality?

  1. CapitalistRoader

    Instead of spending $50 billion a year subsidizing transit, we should take a small fraction of that and give low-income people vouchers to use Uber, Chariot, or other private transportation options.

    Yikes! That might open their eyes to the good life. Better to keep them on dirty, crime ridden collectivist buses and trains. Don’t want them getting any highfalutin’ ideas about escaping the Democratic welfare plantation.

  2. Frank

    I drove for Uber in Portland for a month recently, and will likely again when I visit.

    On weekends, I worked in Gresham because it was very busy there. One ride after another.

    Many rides were to and from grocery shopping. These are lower income people who cannot afford a car or do not have the credit to buy one. Each ride to the grocery store was typically $5 to $7. That’s only $20 to $34 a month at one trip a week. Much cheaper than buying a car, and also much more convenient than taking transit, which may or may not go from their near their house to near the grocery store. Plus schlepping grocery bags on the bus or the MAX is a pain.

    Uber and ride sharing is an important service that lower income individuals and families need.

  3. msetty

    So the Antiplanner thinks “ridesharing” operated by Uber, Lyft and others of that ilk is “cheaper” than transit??
    Well, probably, as long as venture capitalists continue to subsidize Uber et al more than Amtrak and some transit operators.
    See https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-13/uber-sales-reach-7-5-billion-in-2017-despite-persistent-turmoil That is, despite a $4.5 billion net cash flow LOSS during the past year!
    The Uber et al subsidies–provided by VC as part of their rent-seeking business plan to undercut and put competitors out of business, and then gain monopoly “rent” from the resulting monopoly–are likely to run out long before Uber et al is “saved” by self-driving cars, nee robocars.
    Sorry, Randoids and other libertarian smarty-pants on this blog who have unfounded faith (of a religious varieity) in high tech and corporate monopolies. Unlike your technophilic wet dreams, robocars will NOT be here soon enough to bail out the snake oil salesmen at Uber et al.
    Robocars probably won’t EVER arrive at the level required to truly be free of having “monitors,” er, human drivers, available when the robocars inevitably can’t cope with common driving situations, allegedly 5,500 miles between “hand-overs” according to Waymo/Google (and who knows, as link below points out, what is their last 100-feet problem? Private property, where Google road mapping will usually not be allowed??) 5,500 miles is at least 2-3 orders of magnitude not good enough, as implicitly pointed out at http://www.eschatonblog.com/2018/02/theyll-still-have-drivers.html.
    What happened to Metrosucks? His inane posts were at least entertaining. Guess we’re stuck with the idiot savants Frank and “maddog” (sic)…

  4. CapitalistRoader

    So the Antiplanner thinks “ridesharing” operated by Uber, Lyft and others of that ilk is “cheaper” than transit??

    Yeah. He lays it out here. Cars are always cheaper than light rail and usually cheaper than buses.

    …and who knows, as link below points out, what is their last 100-feet problem? Private property, where Google road mapping will usually not be allowed??

    Who has a 100 foot driveway?

  5. LazyReader

    Further proof that elites don’t really give a shit about the poor, they simply want to assimilate them into their enclave of govt as the proprietor of good deeds.
    “Don’t worry we’ll take care of you”
    The greatest example of this lifestyle hypocrisy is during any Climate conference. They emphasize YOU should utilize transit, lower your energy consumption, give up your car (if you have more than one), bike regularly.
    Then the diplomats who argue how you should live, arrive at the conference in a fleet of sedans/SUVs. Audi’s, BMW’s, Mercedes. Audi’s powered by VW Groups amazing W12 engine. BMW’s powered by Bavarian Motor Work’s turbo six-cylinder and Mercedes legendary AMG engines, like it’s 4.7 twin-turbocharged V8 or it’s awesome 6 liter V12.

    God forbid people find means of transportation other than what the government allocates for them they…………would like it?
    Five features of historic slave plantation can be found in two dozen inner cities controlled by the Democratic Party; many of which since the 1960s. The five features of a slave plantation are outlined by Kenneth M. Stampp in The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South.
    1: Broken down and dilapidated and unsafe housing.
    2: Broken families.
    3: A high degree of violence required in order to hold the place together.
    4: Everybody gets a basic provision, but nobody gets ahead; even if they stockpiled or cached said provisions.
    5: Nihilism and despair. This is an intergenerational, ongoing, lasting way of life.
    Now our contemporary government retains, owns, operates, finances (rather forces you to finance) a transportation system where they set the routes, determine the destination, use the power of the law to discourage new alternatives and use the law to protect the existing alternatives (The Taxi Kings)

  6. Sandy Teal

    You can’t get a better example than food. The Democrats led by First Lady Michelle Obama were obsessed with controlling the diet of suburban kids in public schools. Not only were all the school lunches tightly restricted by calories and foods, but even school fundraisers sales of food and even birthday celebrations when parents bring food to celebrate their kids birthday were tightly controlled and banned by FEDERAL LAW.

    But when it is time to talk about what poor people buy with free money from the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT for FOOD, the Democrats want no restrictions. Why? They must not care a bit about the health of poor people, and worry obsessively about even a few pounds on suburban kids. There really is no other consistent answer.

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