Yemi Adediji is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow of the Urban Analytics Institute at Ryerson University. An expert in collecting and interpreting “big data,” she leads research initiatives that seek to make cities more resilient.
Case in point is the report, Regulating Vehicles-for-Hire in Toronto, released this summer. It makes the case that while ride hailing fulfills a need in the market for transportation, there are negative impacts of this sector that in some cases contradict the City of Toronto’s stated goals.
We met with Yemi, who is participating as a panelist at our next Urban Innovation Cafe, “Taken for a Ride: Hailing On-Demand Transit for Good,” to talk about the impact of ride hailing on cities, and some policy considerations for Toronto as ride hailing grows in popularity on our streets. (Post continues after image.)
CBI: What’s your take on ride-hailing technology and its impact on cities so far?
YA: The most obvious thing about ride-hailing technology is its convenience. “Wow–so I can just summon a vehicle from my phone?” This convenience has definitely taken hold within the Millennial generation. And, of course, [ride hailing] also provides a valid service that’s needed. More people live in cities than ever before, and many people now don’t own a car, or choose not to have a car, but they still want to be able to access this transportation option easily and affordably. Ride hailing fills this niche.
And so a lot of cities have been leaning on ride hailing to provide transit, and close transportation gaps. [They can] look at ride hailing as a sort of transportation saviour, [saying] ”we have these problems in providing transit, and people like ride hailing, so let’s use ride hailing.” But this dependent mindset ignores the need for due diligence, and the need to assess ride hailing against policy goals–for instance related to environment, transit or equity.
A number of cities are now pointing at ride-hailing as a major factor behind drastically increased congestion, and reduced levels of transit ridership, and are starting to brainstorm policies that might solve these problems. This August, for example, New York City instituted a cap on the number of Uber and Lyft vehicles permitted to operate within the city. It remains to be seen whether that will effectively address the issues that have arisen, but that’s one example of a step being taken.
Tell me about your recent research study and its takeaways for Toronto.
Our study looked at the policy implications of the discrepancies between PTC (private transportation company) regulation and the regulations in the municipal code Chapter 546, for other vehicle-for-hire parties such as taxi cabs and limos.
As we know, the City has set goals in the policy areas of safety, the environment, economy, transportation, accessibility…these goals have been long standing and appear in various documents. The key point or our latest report is that the implications of ride-hailing technology have not been assessed with respect to these policy goals.
For instance, over the last half a decade or more, the City of Toronto has invested resources into making sure taxi companies replace old vehicles with new ones that are either accessible or fuel efficient. Now, [with ride hailing] you have 70,000 or so PTC licenses for people who can essentially drive whatever vehicle they want. What we’re looking at here is a potential rollback of gains from that emissions-reduction initiative [of the City]. So the question is, why? We assume the initiative was a good idea in the first place, so what can we do to apply the ride-hailing solution in the right way, and not contradict our objectives? Ultimately our report raised questions about ride hailing in Toronto with respect to the City’s goals, including equitable transportation, better air quality through reduced GHG emissions, reducing congestion, and more.
For more discussion of ride-hailing technology and its implications for cities and transit, please join us for Taken for a Ride: Hailing On-Demand Transit for Good on December 3 in the Sears Atrium. Admission is free, but you must register in advance. Get your tickets today.