Daily traffic congestion around the Greater Metropolitan Area of San Jose
Traffic congestion (“presas” in Spanish) around the Greater Metropolitan Area of San Jose is now a daily thing.

QCOSTARICA -While in Costa Rica the debate over the legality (or illegality) of Uber continues, an article in Wired.com paints a different picture: Uber and Lyft rides are more likely to replace a trip in a car than a trip by transit.

In the article Uber Actually Makes Public Transit Better, But Mostly for the Rich it says new reports find that shared services make passengers healthier, reduce the need for car ownership and “complement public transit, enhancing urban mobility.”

In the “Shared Mobility and the Transformation of Public Transit” from the American Public Transportation Association says that while the ease and flexibility of using a service like Uber or Lyft clearly help riders who can afford it, it’s not clear how to extend those advantages to the poor, the elderly, or those with disabilities.

Users of Uber need to have a smartphone, a wireless internet connection and plastic (credit or debit) card to use the service. In Costa Rica, for example, that excludes a large sector of the population, only those above a disposable income threshold have the option, the rest strictly a formal taxi. For some even the formal (red) taxi is out of reach.

Paul Lewis, vice president of policy and finance at the Eno Center for Transportation, a nonprofit, non-partisan think tank in Washington, DC, which was not affiliated with this study, addresses an important question. “There’s this outstanding question as to whether these new shared mobility services are complementary to public transit or competitive,” he says.

According to the report, in places like Austin (Texas), Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC, found people who regularly use shared services “save the most money and own half as many cars as people who use public transit alone,” (It did not quantify those savings.)

The report says that Uber and Lyft rides are more likely to replace a trip in a car than a trip by transit.  Ride share use spikes during the overnight hours, when public transportation systems are closed, filling a gap in service.

That’s why, the report finds, cities “should identify opportunities to engage with [sharing services] to ensure that benefits are widely and equitably distributed.”

If applied to Costa Rica, it would certainly reduce the number of cars on the roads and daily congestion that has become a nightmare for people with cars and users of public transit alike.

The caveat to the report is that average household income was high, more than the median, indicating that Uber and Lyft users are those with disposable income.

This same group in Costa Rica could be users of Uber, though the image of elitism is one the

Though ride share services want to tone down the image of elitism, in Costa Rica, as mentioned before, those with disposable income are the primary users of Uber. Attracting more could result in fewer cars on the roads, roads that for the most part were never designed for today’s volume of traffic.

It’s up to government officials to figure out that along with improving public transit, like the development of the electric train, allowing ride share services could benefit everyone.


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