Metro Denver residents’ growing reliance on Lyft and Uber has relieved pressure on parking in some areas of the city, according to a new study that suggests city planners could adapt to that new dynamic by requiring fewer spaces in certain places.
The study by a researcher and professor with ties to the University of Colorado Denver found that since more than a quarter of the hundreds of riders surveyed would have driven themselves otherwise, their ride-hitching choice meant they no longer needed a parking spot at their destination. The results were reported recently in The Journal of Transport and Land Use.
“People pretty much are willing to pay more for someone to drive them if it means not wasting time looking for parking,” said Alejandro Henao, the lead researcher, in an interview.
Henao, as part of his doctoral work at CU Denver, took to the wheel for more than three months in 2016 as a driver for the two ride-hailing apps. That gave him an on-the-ground look at how the services affect local traffic patterns and passengers’ travel habits — both by tracking his 416 trips through the Uber and Lyft apps and surveying 311 of his riders.
What he found was a complex picture, showing both negative and positive effects on transportation in Denver.
An initial paper, published last fall in the journal Transportation, concluded based on his experience that ride-hailing services were causing more congestion, with 83.5 percent more miles traveled on area streets than would have been the case if Lyft and Uber weren’t an option. That calculation was based in part on the alternatives passengers said they would have used, ranging from public transportation to walking to driving themselves.
It also factored in an estimate that drivers contracted by Uber and Lyft were “deadheading,” or driving around without a paying passenger, at least 40 percent of the time.
That study prompted some pushback from Lyft, which cites other research showing positive effects on congestion.