UC Berkeley study examines ways to improve, incentivize shared rides

Photo of rideshare car
David McAllister/Staff
A UC Berkeley study examined the usage of transportation network companies across California and how to incentivize pooling and ride shares.

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In a published study, UC Berkeley researchers examined the usage of transportation network companies, or TNCs, across California and how to incentivize customers to use pooling and ride-shares.

Using survey data collected in 2018, the study examines travel behavior and preferences across four California metropolitan regions: Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego and the San Francisco Bay AreaIt also took a closer look at the implications of rapidly expanding the pooling and ride-share market through services such as Uber, Lyft and Waze Carpool, according to the study.

According to Susan Shaheen, a study co-author and campus professor, the research aims to determine how to maximize the social and environmental advantages of ride-sharing.

“Quantifying the time and price tradeoffs in choosing between pooled and ride-alone options enables researchers and policymakers to better analyze how to design effective and equitable strategies to incentivize pooling,” said Jessica Lazarus, a campus Ph.D. candidate and another author of the study, in an email.

Demand for pooling differs across the four regions studied due to the many sociodemographic factors and TNC service options, according to Shaheen. Shaheen recommended that future policies designed to encourage pooling should account for these differences.

Experimentation with various pricing and incentives will be crucial in understanding how to effectively utilize the benefits of pooling, she added.

In addition, the study found that heavy users of TNC services those using them more than three days a week tend to be low-income individuals and are more likely not to own a car, according to Lazarus.

“In the San Francisco Bay Area, African Americans are significantly more likely to be heavy TNC users compared to Asians and Caucasians/Non Hispanics,” Shaheen said in an email. “This is due to a particularly high rate of heavy TNC use (44%) among African Americans earning less than $35,000 a year in the San Francisco Bay Area.”

Black people also tend to be the most frequent users of TNC services out of users earning less than $35,000 in the Sacramento and Los Angeles areas observed, Shaheen added. Hispanics are the next most likely users of these services in the Los Angeles area, while Hispanics and Asians are the next most likely in the Sacramento region.

According to Lazarus, heavy TNC users are more often using these services for essential purposes such as commuting, shopping for groceries or for healthcare purposes than more occasional TNC users. These users also tend to be the most likely to opt for a pooled ride service, Lazarus added.

“While the findings of this study are based on data collected prior to the pandemic, the findings can still help to inform policies that promote pooling throughout the many phases of recovery that are to come,” Lazarus said in an email.

According to Lazarus and Shaheen, plans to further develop this research and apply it to other modes of transportation are in the works.

Katia Pokotylo is the lead business and economy reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @katiapokotylo_.