A Social Surcharge – the Downsides of Ridesharing

When I would tell friends in America that Vancouver does not have ridesharing, they would express disbelief. Ridesharing apps have transformed the way most North Americans commute. After a long day at work or a night out, Uber and Lyft have offered a convenient and cheap ride home for nearly a decade. Everywhere, that is, except Vancouver, where ridesharing firms only began operations in January 2020.

I moved to New York just days before the duopoly’s overdue introduction to Vancouver. Ridesharing from JFK to Manhattan was easy and reasonable. But, this means of transportation comes with hidden social costs. Cities that have had ridesharing services for much of the 2010s now grapple with the environmental issues, reductions in disability access, and serious safety concerns that accompany them. Vancouver should thus seize its late-mover advantage, learn from its predecessors, and implement tighter regulations on these firms minimizing these downsides.

This industry can have devastating environmental impacts. In New York daily ridesharing trips increased from 60,000 to 600,000 over three years, while transit ridership showed an almost perfectly proportional decline. This trend can be observed across multiple US markets, where on average bus ridership would drop by 12% in eight years following ridesharing’s entry. Meanwhile, Vancouver, without Uber and Lyft, has experienced some of the fastest growing transit ridership rates. Additionally, a report produced by ridesharing firms, acknowledged that they contributed significantly to traffic congestion, and that only about 60% of kilometers travelled by ridesharing vehicles were with passengers in the backseat.

That means a lot of added empty cars on our roads causing significant environmental impact. Vancouver has taken steps to mitigate this, including a $0.30 pick up and drop off fee, but this does not go far enough. Vancouver’s roads are already some of the most congested, and thus the city should consider charging ridesharing vehicles for distances travelled – disincentivizing cars from driving without customers. Taxes collected from the companies should be earmarked solely for transit improvements.

Ridesharing | Belvedere Tiburon Library

https://www.beltiblibrary.org/do-research/topicguides/ridesharing

Ridesharing does not just harm the environment, it poses challenges for disability access as well. The software can be challenging to use for the blind, and the vast majority of ridesharing vehicles are not equipped with wheelchair ramps. Legally, unlike taxi companies, rideshare firms are not required to maintain accessible vehicles because they do noy own the vehicles their drivers operate. To aggravate the situation, accessible taxis are now being taken off the road due to the intense competition posed by ridesharing.

Taxi companies in Vancouver, which are already threatening to do the same, are required to have 19% of their fleets be wheelchair accessible, while conversely rideshares face no such requirements. To improve access for persons with disabilities, Vancouver should provide tax breaks for accessible taxis and ramp-equipped ridesharing vehicles. Research should be undertaken on how accessible vehicle minimums could be legally imposed on Uber and Lyft.

Finally, a number of safety issues plague ridesharing companies. 2019 saw 3,000 sexual assaults reported in Uber vehicles. Worryingly, a recent article outlined how employees responsible for investigating these kinds of incidents are coached to prioritize company interests before those of the affected passenger.

Vancouver has imposed requirements on these companies to complete periodic mandatory background checks, which pales in comparison to the requirements for taxi drivers. While it may be difficult to oblige rideshare drivers to install vehicle security cameras, mandatory semiannual criminal record checks, increased police training, and pressure to build safety features into rideshare applications are all certainly possible.

But, regulating ridesharing is no simple task. There will certainly be pushback from Uber and Lyft, and from consumers themselves who stand to benefit from the affordable means of transportation. As users of rideshare though, we must demand that our governments take bold and innovative steps to check these firms, in ways that do not significantly increase the monetary cost of rides. It is important that we look past the initial benefits of a cheap ride, and think about the long term social costs of these services, which we will all eventually bear if governments don’t act fast.

Despite issues stemming from environmental degradation, a reduction in accessibility, and passenger safety, I continue to use ridesharing here in New York. However, on each of these trips I pay a surcharge of guilt. I thus implore Vancouver’s municipal government to impose tighter regulations on Lift and Uber. Consumers have patiently waited for the government to approve ridesharing, the least we can expect in return is that our legislators have used that time wisely.

 

 

Do You Say “Thank You” When Disembarking From Public Transit?

About 34% of all riders in Metro Vancouver do.

Translink Bus

In the August of 2011, Translink, the transit authority in Vancouver, British Columbia conducted a poll on its blog asking readers “Do you say ‘Thanks’ to bus drivers?” Only 16 of the survey’s 593 respondents, or 3%, responded that they never say “thanks” (“Friday Fun Poll“). Although the online nature of this poll creates numerous biases including self-selection and undercoverage, it served as my motivation to explore this subject in greater detail.

Research Question

Does gender play a role in the likelihood an individual will say “thank you” or “thanks” to the public transit operator when he or she disembarks from a non-articulated bus in the Metro Vancouver area?

Methodology

For this study, the primary data was generated using an indirect unobtrusive measure, meaning that research subjects were not aware that the data was being collected. To ascertain the data, I boarded the #25 bus on Monday, November 10th at 1:38pm, at the first eastbound stop, the UBC bus loop, and sat near the back door, from where a majority of passengers exit. From here, I proceeded to record the gender of each passenger (male or female), the door each individual used to exit the bus (front or back), the stop the passenger disembarked at, and of course whether or not each passenger expressed gratitude when exiting the bus. All of these measures were binary with the exception of the stop name. This data collection was continued until the bus reached its last stop in Metro Vancouver, Kincaid Street at Boundary Road. Here, I switched to a westbound #25 bus departing at 2:37pm and repeated the data collection process for all passengers until UBC.

The #25 bus was selected for two reasons. It is one of only the two buses (the other being the #49) to traverse the entire East to West length of the Metro Vancouver area. Additionally, it is the only one of the two aforementioned buses that is not articulated. On articulated buses, individuals may be less likely to say thank you to the driver because of the distance from the back doors to the front of the bus. The greater number of available exits would also increase measurement error, as it would be hard for the researcher to accurately hear, see, and count passengers as they exit the longer buses.

Results

After logging the collected data into Microsoft Excel and cleaning up the entries to ensure consistency and accuracy, it was transferred to SmStata 13.1 for analysis. The results of the survey are summarized in the following table with column percentages:

  Male Female Total
Did not express gratitude 40 (65.6%) 56 (66.7%) 96 (66.2%)
Express gratitude 21 (34.4%) 28 (33.3%) 49 (33.8%)
Total 61 84 145 (100%)

A few points of note on this table are that 33.8% of all individuals surveyed expressed gratitude when disembarking from the bus. Additionally, even before the execution of any statistical analysis, it is evident that the rate of expressing gratitude is fairly similar between males and females, at 34.4% and 33.3% respectively.

Subsequently, a chi-squared test of independence was performed on the two variables. In this experiment, the null hypothesis is that the propensity of an individual to express gratitude when disembarking from public transit is independent of the individual’s gender. The test yielded a p-value of 0.891, much higher than the predetermined significance level of α = 0.05. Consequently, there is no reasonable evidence to support the rejection of the null hypothesis.

This study therefore concludes that the likelihood of an individual saying “thanks” or “thank you” as he or she disembarks from public transit in the Metro Vancouver area is independent of said person’s gender.

Limitations

One major issue with this study is the external validity, or the potential inability for the results to be generalized to larger populations, (such as all bus riders, or even all riders Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 3.24.39 PMon the #25 bus). This is because of the non-random sampling method utilized, and the limited sample size caused by the time and budget constraints. It is possible that bus riders at the times or on the routes selected are not representative of the average bus rider in Vancouver. For example, a bus rider in rush hour may have a different propensity to expressing gratitude when disembarking than those in the evening due to confounding variables.

Finally, there is also the chance for measurement error. As I was the only one observing individuals on the bus, it is possible that I may have systematically misheard passengers, miscounted passengers disembarking at the busier stops, or even misjudged individuals’ genders.

Sources

Curtin, Michael. “A Question of Manners: Status and gender in Etiquette and Courtesy.” The Journal of Modern History (1985): 396-423.

Deandremouse. “Re: Animated Bus Thread.” Weblog comment. Canadian Public Transit Discussion Board. N.p., 24 Feb. 2011. Web.

“Friday Fun Poll: Do You Say “Thanks” to Bus Drivers?” The Buzzer Blog. Translink, 19 Aug. 2011. Web. 18 Dec. 2014.

Harris, Mary B. “When Courtesy Fails: Gender Roles and Polite Behaviors.” Journal of Applied Social Psychology 22.18 (1992): 1399-1416.

Mills, Sara. “Class, gender and politeness.” Multilingua 23.1-2 (2004): 171-190.

Spark: The Buzzer Blog’s Friday Fun Poll: Do you say “Thanks” to bus drivers?