Study: Uber and Lyft Reduce the Need for Parking

Photo:  Flickr/Raido Kaldma
Photo: Flickr/Raido Kaldma

Cities should rethink how much land they devote to parking in the age of Uber and Lyft — particularly at destinations like airports, concert venues and bars and restaurants, a new study shows.

Parking scarcity or price is one of the top reasons people use Uber and Lyft. University of Colorado researchers Alejandro Henao and Wesley Marshall estimate that about a quarter of all ride hailing trips would have otherwise consumed a parking space. This is especially true for destinations where it is hard or expensive to park, including airports, concert venues, universities, downtowns and are and restaurants.

Because Uber and Lyft do not make their data available for study, the research team gathered data by signing up as drivers at both companies in the Denver metro area. They would survey riders about how they would have made the trip otherwise. And measure how long it would take to park, and how much it would cost at each destination.

Even though parking is a key reason people take Uber and Lyft, for most of the study trips parking was free and easy. At the end of every trip, Henao would record how long it took to find parking at the destination. In 72 percent of cases, there was no cost for parking (after the passenger disembarked), and for most trips, parking took 30 seconds or less.

But the ease of parking varied quite a bit depending on certain factors — from seconds to 29 minutes in the most-severe case (overall, the average was 3.4 minutes). The trips where parking took more than 15 minutes to find were mainly concert venues and airports or college campuses, Henao and Marshall said.

Car owners were most likely to say they used Uber and Lyft to avoid parking hassles.

“Having Uber and Lyft as options means that we don’t need to supply as much parking around restaurants, bars, event venues, stadiums, etc.,” Marshall told Streetsblog. “So in terms of parking in cities, I hope that our paper helps give cities the wherewithal to do what they should already by dedicating less land to parking and putting it to a better use.”

Many cities require a minimum number of parking spaces at practically every destination — rules that serve as a hidden subsidy for driving. As a result, U.S. cities are drowning in parking. Des Moines, Iowa, has an estimated 18 spaces for every person.

The study offers good news for cities that want to change that equation, but there is, of course, some bad news from Uber and Lyft. A recent study by the same duo found that Uber and Lyft add 83 percent more driving miles than if they did not exist.

Ride hailing makes up only about 1 percent of total miles driven in the U.S. in 2017 but for certain destinations and in certain metro areas, ride-hailing traffic might be much higher, the research team says.

A person is most likely to choose Uber or Lyft because they intend to drink, with concern about parking the next most-cited reason. Among non-car owners, about 12 percent of riders said they used Uber and Lyft because public transport didn’t provide service to their destination.

  • garbanzito

    while so-called ride sharing may reduce the need for parking, it increases the need for “stopping areas” and driver certification — in my experience Uber/Lyft/etc. drivers feel unbound by the social contract of traffic laws because their first priority is to get a good rating from their passenger; while this has effects on every part of driving, in particular it means they will stop anywhere and block traffic, unsafely occupy no-parking zones near intersections, and/or impede pedestrian access in their aim to put passengers as close as possible to their destination

  • SuperQ

    Very true. San Francisco has a huge problem with double parking due to the lack of loading zones. Both for delivery vehicles and taxi/ride sharing. Mission street is a major transit route, and even with dedicated bus lanes, still manages to get clogged with double-parked cars and delivery trucks.

  • AMH
  • Jame

    I definitely use Uber or Lyft to avoid parking hassles, or because the transit option is subpar. But the vast majority of drivers are absolutely terrible about finding a safe place for you to board and offboard. And only 30% seem to understand that street numbers correspond with the side of the street you’d like to be picked up on. I can’t tell you how many times a driver has stopped on the wrong side of a wide busy street and expected me to cross, often illegally, instead of pulling up in front of the designated address.

  • Grace Bedell

    “…we don’t need to supply as much parking around restaurants, bars, event venues, stadiums, etc.”

    All places that serve alcohol. It’s amazing that cities are not jumping at the chance to reform their parking requirements at these places.

  • SF Guest

    Mission Street which features one transit lane and one regular use lane will only get worse once cars are banned from Market Street a block away.

  • crazyvag

    Sadly for transit riders, along Market street the bus lane is only “part time”

  • Daniel

    double parking is the one thing we can blame Saddam Hussein for

  • x x

    Have you ever thought about waking around the corner to a less busy street? Or walk to an easier place to get picked up? Like a Hotel Valet area?

  • Jame

    It doesn’t matter. I choose the easiest spot for a pickup – loading areas, quiet streets, whatever makes sense for the particular destination. A hotel valet area is not a likely scenario.

    It seems like either routing is broken, or the driver ignores the routing because they thing their way is “easier.” And generally this means they’ll attempt to pickup on the wrong side of the street – despite the pickup address. Some drivers even mark “arrived” half a block away from the actual pickup spot.

    I give lower rating and add comments as much as possible. People just aren’t really thinking about it from the passengers perspective.

  • laughtiger

    But Uber and Lyft do depend on free parking all the time! When they aren’t driving around, they wait (or even sleep) in parking lots at supermarkets, etc. I’m guessing the researchers didn’t take this kind of taxi-staging parking into account.

  • BW

    Uber/Lyft may reduce the need for parking, but they’re still encourage / increase the use of private autos over transit. The good thing about parking a private auto is that the car is only in use to reach a destination. For Uber/Lyft, the empty car (except driver) must first travel to the customer before going to the destination, which adds vehicle miles traveled, pollution, traffic congestion, fuel consumption, etc.

  • anon_coward

    They might reduce parking, but not the carbon footprint. Uber’s own data shows it’s drivers drive around with no fare 80% of their shift

  • @SuperQ – It’s not “due to the lack of loading zones,” it’s due to a shift from transit to gig-economy scab cabs.

  • @Daniel – For losing an oil war?

  • @AMH – Worse than “somewhat.” The deadheading erases all environmental benefit, real or imagined, of these businesses.

  • 66 City

    The whole notion that you should be able to be picked up, or dropped off, at a precise location is, more often than not, expecting too much. Unless you’re disabled, elderly, or carrying a load, you could probably make your way to a designated loading zone, just like zillions of transit riders do. Why does everyone else have to bend to accommodate the elitist fantasy of exact-preferred pick up and drop off?

  • Jame

    1. I generally pick loading zones
    2. My issue isn’t exact match pick-up, it’s position on the road – are you telling me you have never seen an Uber driver stop in the middle of the roadway or bike lane with no warning? It happens often, the pickups and drop offs are quite erratic
    3. Most people I know, myself included, use rideshare when transit isn’t available or inconvenient
    4. Uber drivers using bus stops is equally bad – and that is a separate unmentioned issue. This causes inconvenience for transit users and operators

    This isn’t about elitist first world problems as you framed it, but safety for other road users.

  • Nicholas L

    Wouldn’t it be smarter for them to park and wait?

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