Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The Customers of Ride-Hailing Services

Ten percent of the U.S. population aged 18 or older used a ride-hailing service at least once in the past month, according to the 2017 National Household Travel Survey (NHTS). Researchers Rick Grahn, Stan Caldwell, and Chris Hendrickson of the Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation at Carnegie Mellon University analyzed the 2017 data in an effort to provide policy recommendations on emerging technologies in transportation.

Data from 2017 may seem a bit dated when analyzing an industry that has been operating in earnest for only eight years. But if that's all we've got—and it is—then it's important to take a look. But first, an explanation of why 2017 data are all we've got. The Federal Highway Administration only occasionally fields the NHTS, asking Americans to detail how they get to where they're going every time they step out the door. The last NHTS was fielded in 2009—pre Uber. The 2017 statistics on the demographics and travel patterns of ride-hailing users are valuable simply because they are rare.  

So let's take a look at the findings. As you might expect, young adults are the primary users of ride-hailing services. Among 25-to-34-year-olds, one in four used a ride-hailing service in the past month—more than any other age group. 

Percent using ride-hailing service in past month
Aged 18 to 24: 17.4%
Aged 25 to 34: 24.6%
Aged 35 to 44: 15.5%
Aged 45 to 54: 10.1%
Aged 55 to 64: 6.2%
Aged 65 to 74: 3.4%
Aged 75-plus: 1.8%

Because about 60 percent of ride-hailing customers use the service three or fewer times per month, the researchers suggest that ride-hailing is a special-occasion mode of transportation and not used for the regular commute to work. Although most use the service only a few times a month, 41 percent of ride-hailing customers use it at least once a week. These devotees are in their mid-thirties. They are relatively affluent, with a median household income between $100,000 and $125,000. They are likely to have a bachelor's degree. They are also more likely than the average American to use public transit. Frequent ride-hailing customers use public transit 7 to 10 times a month compared with just 2 trips a month for the average person. 

What are the policy implications of these findings? It's complex, say the researchers, because it's not yet clear how ride-hailing affects the transportation system. Are ride-hailing users replacing public transit trips with ride-hailing? Or are other modes of transportation being replaced by ride-hailing? "The inability to understand the role ride-hailing services play in urban mobility creates challenges in the transportation decision making process," they conclude. Let's hope the NHTS is fielded more frequently in the future so these questions can be answered.

Source: Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation at Carnegie Mellon, Recommended Policies for the 21st Century Trends in U.S. Mobility

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