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Study: Uber and Lyft may be making traffic worse in the Denver metro area

A study led by CU Denver Ph.D. graduate said Uber and Lyft are contributing to traffic congestion in the Denver metro area. According to the study, 83 percent of riders would have taken public transit, walked, or bicycled had the rideshare companies not been available.

Uber and Lyft may be making traffic worse in the Denver metro area, according to a study printed in the Journal of Transportation on Sept. 20. The study was led by University of Colorado Denver Ph.D. graduate Alejandro Henao.

Henao signed up as a driver for both rideshare companies in 2016. He provided hundreds of rides throughout the Denver metro area to collect real-time data and survey passengers for feedback and demographic information.

He found ride-hailing accounts for an 83 percent increase in the miles cars travel in the metro. Henao said a combined 34 percent of his passengers would have taken transit, walked or bicycled if ride-hailing didn't exist.

He said there were two main factors vehicle miles traveled increased. One was because of the distance drivers traveled without any passengers. According to the study, for every 100 miles carrying passengers, Uber and Lyft drivers travel an additional 69 miles without a passenger, conservatively.

The second was because ride-hailing is substituting more efficient and sustainable modes such as transit, biking, and walking.

"Given the lack of data and existing research, this study represents a nice step forward in helping us better understand how ride-haling impacts the transportation system," said co-author Wes Marshall in an article written on CU Denver's website.

Marshall is an associate professor in the Civil Engineering Department of the College of Engineering and Applied Science at CU Denver.

"However, cities still need better data to inform policy decisions about the many mobility-disrupting companies, and we have reached a point where we should expect, and probably need to require more data transparency," Marshall added.