What kind of city is required for ride sharing to work?

Ride sharing seems like it has become ubiquitous in recent years, but the very nature of such platforms suggests that the concept is only viable in cities that are large enough to have sufficient numbers of riders and passengers.

A recent MIT study set out to explore just what kind of cities meet this criteria.  The study suggests that ride sharing is perhaps a more viable concept than previously thought.

Past work

Previous studies have examined the ride-sharing market and found it has considerable potential in cities such as New York.  Cities such as New York have exceptional population density however, and so the researchers wanted to examine if other types of city could benefit equally.

The researchers examined data from San Francisco, Singapore and Vienna, and found that the potential of ride sharing in each city is almost identical to that of New York.

The researchers used taxi data from each of the cities, before then factoring in things such as the area of the city, number of trips made and the average traffic speed.  This gave them a rough figure of the number of rides that are shareable.

They suggest that roughly 99% of rides are sharable in New York, but the other cities were also incredibly high, with 97% of rides fitting the criteria.  This was despite the very different nature of each of the cities.

“The possible explanation … is that what influences shareability is the way our lives are organized, rather than the city layout,” the authors say.

Surprising potential

Based upon the results, the researchers propose the potential for ride sharing in 30 other cities around the world.  Interestingly, cities such as Berlin and London scored quite low, whilst cities such as Prague and Amsterdam scored highly.

“How shareability turns into real sharing depends on culture,” the authors concede, “In some countries you might find more sharing than in other countries.”

There are a growing number of companies operating in the industry however, suggesting that ride sharing is likely to become a larger part of the urban transport environment in the coming years.  This paper shows that there does appear to be considerable scope for growth in a wide range of cities.  Time will tell how prescient the predictions are.

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