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Santiago study finds ride-hailing increases VKT

Researchers from the Universidad de Chile in Santiago, Chile have found that unless ride-hailing applications substantially increase average occupancy rate of trips and become shared or pooled ride-hailing, their overall impact is an increase in vehicle kilometers traveled (VKT). Their paper appears in the International Journal of Sustainable Transportation.

The authors used survey results on Uber use by residents of Santiago, Chile, and information from other studies to parameterize a model to determine whether the advent of ride-hailing applications increases or decreases the number of VKT. They used a Monte Carlo simulation for a range of possible parameter values.

Our base scenario indicates that ride-hailing applications have increased VKT. This occurs because many trips made using ride-hailing services come from mass transit or are new trips (induced demand). However, as the occupancy rate of ride-hailing trips increases, the possibility that ride- hailing decreases VKT is higher. If ride-hailing becomes shared or pooled ride-hailing, in more than 50% of our simulated scenarios VKT is reduced if mean occupancy rate is 2.9 pax/veh or higher. Thus, the average occupancy rate among ride-hailing users is a key parameter that determines the impact on VKT.

—Tirachini & Gomez-Lobo

This research is supported by the Complex Engineering Systems Institute, Chile.


  • Alejandro Tirachini & Andres Gomez-Lobo (2019) “Does ride-hailing increase or decrease vehicle kilometers traveled (VKT)? A simulation approach for Santiago de Chile,” International Journal of Sustainable Transportation doi: 10.1080/15568318.2018.1539146



It seems obvious that single occupancy ride hailing will increase VKT.
Thus, it should be policy (more or less everywhere) to increase the occupancy levels.
However, I can see lots of reasons why people might not want to do it.

[ There is a certain distance between people in buses and trains, but they are very close in a Taxi. Women, especially, might not like being bundled in with a bunch of men. (So have women only ride sharing) ]

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