Lyft doesn’t cause congestion, all vehicles do

Restrictions targeted at the newest road users are unfair and inefficient

For years, Bob has been driving around the city to get to work, run errands, and see friends. The traffic is sometimes bad, but given where he lives and the places he goes, it’s not practical to walk, bike, or use public transit. Luckily for Bob, many people don’t have cars, and can’t afford taxis. So they walk, bike, or use public transit, which keeps them (mostly) off the roads.

But then some "genius" comes along and figures out how to use smart phones to provide taxi-like ride-hailing service at lower cost and greater convenience, with hip names like Uber and Lyft. Traffic increases, and Bob’s daily travels get slower and more frustrating. What is Bob to do? Well, for many Bobs in US cities, it appears that the answer is to hobble the technology that has allowed all those other people to get around more conveniently.

After all, Bob says, he was here first, so the congestion isn’t his fault. He just wants to make his life great again.

Jennifer is one of those people who doesn’t have a car, and has been walking, biking or taking public transit. Sometimes it’s pretty inconvenient. Uber/Lyft has definitely improved her life. Now, she even occasionally does things that weren’t practical before, like going to the other side of town to meet a friend for lunch. You know, the sort of things Bob has been doing for years.

So, please explain to Jennifer why she should not get to use the roads to go places with Uber/Lyft, but Bob should get to use them to drive his own car.

If you’re stuck, that’s good. Because there really isn’t a valid explanation. In reality, Bob is just as much of the problem as Jennifer is…

Read more on the Energy Institute Blog at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business