In America there is no shortage in cars. In fact, it is the exact opposite. There is indeed a surplus of cars and by surplus I mean that there is a car for every person in this country. Parking garages are ubiquitous and in places where parks could be instead. Aside from the obvious impact this has on traffic, it is a serious drain on the environment. In 2013, the EPA recorded that 27% of carbon emissions came from transportation. This percentage increased 16% since 1990 which would mean that carbon emissions from transportation has increased over 150% in less than two decades. So what do we do to improve transportation and help limit global warming? CEO and cofounder of Uber, Travis Kalanick puts it best, “Replace parking garages with parks”. Kalanick and his company are aiming to change the world of transportation by getting more people in to fewer cars. By now, we should all be familiar with Uber unless you live under a rock but are we familiar with how Uber has changed the game other than giving us a way to have a designated driver at the push of a button?
Although it is still unclear of the environmental impact of Uber, we can definitely see it is setting precedent for a better system. We can be honest with ourselves and admit to using the service in times where we would have walked instead. Due to Uber drivers paying for their own gas, they would want to maximize their profit by purchasing fuel efficient vehicles. I have seen a spike in the number of fuel efficient vehicles picking me up when I use the service. Consider this, Uber was founded in 2009 and didn’t pick up steam until 2012. The average length of car ownership in the United States is 5 years for new cars and 4 years for used cars. That puts us right in the prime position for consumers to be purchasing cars since the arrival of Uber. Consumers may choose to opt for hybrid and energy efficient vehicles instead knowing that they have the option to make money in their free time by using their cars. When the numbers roll out, we’ll see if my theory holds true.
Uber is encouraging commuters to start using UberPool where they can share a ride with another person and split the fare. Lower fares are enough of an incentive to get people to start using the service. The proof is in the pudding as Los Angeles has shown the effect of UberPool. In a one-month span, 100K people have began to use UberPool thus reducing traffic. If you are familiar with Los Angeles, then you know that it is Hell’s parking lot. Although it is hard to see the impact in real time, the numbers are definitely there.
So why is it that Uber is running taxis out of business? A cheaper alternative, a guaranteed ride, and a friendlier ride and experience. Most Uber drivers drive as a part time job and it is not their livelihood. They are not in as big of a rush that the taxi drivers are usually in. We’ve all been in the back seat of a taxi where the driver doesn’t speak and is driving the vehicle like crazy taxi. There have been plenty of times that the driver almost made me spill my yak on my thousand-dollar suit. (Watch Next Friday if you didn’t get the joke.) Also, during late night transit times it allows for a safer trip home. Uber compliments public transport, where public transport can’t go Uber can pick up where they left off and drop them off at the last point.
Uber has revolutionized the traffic game and is here to stay. With voting season coming around please be cognizant of regulations that may have impacts on ride sharing. More people in to fewer cars, imagine the impact.