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Many Lyft and Uber Riders Also Use Public Transit, Study Says

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A Lyft driver at work in downtown San Francisco. (Ericka Cruz Guevarra/KQED)

One of the big questions surrounding Uber and Lyft's growing popularity in cities has been: Are ride services taking passengers away from public transportation?

Now comes a study conducted for the American Public Transportation Association. It found that people who use ride services and other options, such as bike sharing and car sharing, rely on public transit as their most common mode of transportation.

The survey of 4,500 people in seven cities, including San Francisco and Los Angeles, says that half reported using transit frequently. The most popular time for ride service trips was between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m., and on weekends -- an indication that use peaks for social outings, or at times when public transit service isn't as widely available.

"This suggests that people use ridesourcing situationally, and not daily -- as a mode that fills in gaps or works under specific circumstances rather than as the core of their commute," the report said.

Instead of reducing public transit trips, the study said ride services are largely replacing private auto and taxicab trips. Many are also using ride services as the first mile/last mile connection to public transit. In San Francisco, some of the most common spots for ride service pickups and drop-offs are around public transit hubs.


The average salary for those surveyed was around $90,000 and the average age was 41. About 34 percent were between the ages of 25 to 34. Twenty percent made less than $50,000 a year.

Besides public transportation, the study noted that car sharing was the most popular alternative mode for low- to moderate-income residents, followed by ride services.

The study recommended that public transit agencies embark on more public-private partnerships, and encouraged companies like Uber and Lyft to "make use of new technologies' rich data gathering capabilities."

Ride-service companies have been reluctant to release data, even to public transit agencies, which would shed light on how and where their services are getting the greatest use in cities like San Francisco. However, one study is underway that should offer the first comprehensive glimpse at how ride services are impacting congestion and the environment.

The survey found that the availability of "shared mobility" options allowed many people to put off buying a car or not buy one at all.

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