Feb 13, 2020 - Technology

When Uber left Austin

Traffic moved faster in Austin after Uber and Lyft left the city.

Expand chart
Reproduced from Tarduno, 2019, “The Congestion Costs of Uber and Lyft”; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

By the numbers: Daytime traffic sped up by about 3.4%, according to a new paper from Matthew Tarduno, a graduate student at UC Berkeley. That's about 0.1 minutes per mile.

Why it matters: Tarduno's paper shows that Uber and Lyft increase the number of cars on the road, exacerbate congestion, and decrease traffic speeds — even if the effects in Austin were relatively modest.

Background: After Austin insisted that Uber and Lyft drivers pass background checks, both companies ceased operations in the city overnight. (They eventually returned after the state of Texas effectively overruled the city.)

The bottom line: Tarduno calculates that while faster traffic is worth $61 million a year to Austinites, that's roughly the same as the value to citizens of having Uber and Lyft (also known as transportation network companies) in the first place.

  • "TNC activity can be viewed roughly as a transfer," he concludes. "The consumer surplus enjoyed by TNC passengers is of similar size to the time loss incident on incumbent drivers."

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Coronavirus dashboard

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  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 5,929,312 — Total deaths: 357,781 — Total recoveries — 2,385,926Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 1,709,996 — Total deaths: 101,002 — Total recoveries: 391,508 — Total tested: 15,192,481Map.
  3. States: New York to allow private businesses to deny entry to customers without masks.
  4. Public health: Louisiana Sen. Cassidy wants more frequent testing of nursing home workers.
  5. Congress: Pelosi slams McConnell on stimulus delay — Sen. Tim Kaine and wife test positive for coronavirus antibodies.
  6. Business: Louisiana senator says young people are key to reopening the economy —U.S. GDP drop revised lower to 5% in the first quarter.
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