Uber and Lyft agree: They make traffic worse in some cities

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Uber and Lyft admitted this week in a joint analysis that, in six major cities across the U.S., they make traffic worse  — an admission that could come with a financial catch for riders.

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The study, released by Uber and Lyft this week, found that the ride-sharing companies contribute to increased vehicle congestion in six metro areas: Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. The report, which was handled by transparency consultancy firm Fehr & Peers, analyzed data from the ride-share giants, as well as from federal, state and local authorities, over the course of one month.

“The research shows that despite tremendous growth over the past decade, TNC [shorthand for Uber and Lyft] use still pales in comparison to all other traffic, and although TNCs are likely contributing to an increase in congestion, its scale is dwarfed by that of private cars and commercial traffic,” Chris Pangilinan, Uber’s head of global policy for public transportation said in a blog post.

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According to the study, Uber and Lyft account for only 1 percent to 3 percent of cars on the road in the cities studied. However, their shares are higher in the central areas of those regions, often ranging from around 2 percent of total congestion to more than 13 percent.

But Lyft and Uber’s sudden acknowledgment that they increase traffic could come with a catch for users: A fare increase.

“The ride-hailing companies are positioning their analysis as a way to promote congestion pricing, a policy where drivers pay fees to access high-volume city streets,” reports CityLab.

In February, Uber raised the cost of rides, with passengers paying $2.75 more per trip, and 75 cents per trip for pool rides, after a New York Supreme Court judge ruled that a congestion surcharge could take effect, since it would not cause “irreparable damage” to driver’s business. The city expects the surcharge fee to bring in about $1 per day.

The companies did not include New York as one of the cities in their most recent study.

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Both Lyft and Uber are set to report their quarterly earnings this week; Lyft will report after the bell on Wednesday, and Uber on Thursday.

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