Lyft Is Reaching L.A. Neighborhoods Where Taxis Wouldn’t - City Lab

In the eight short years since the first “UberCab” pick-up in San Francisco, ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft have upturned old transportation networks and created unprecedented demand for travel.

But have their benefits extended to communities long left behind by the taxi industry, and that need car services most? For decades, racial discrimination by cab drivers has left black riders, in particular, waiting longer for pick-ups, having their destinations refused, and flat-out ignored, studies show; a 2013 investigation in Washington, D.C., found taxis were 25 percent less likely to pick up a black rider than a white rider. This plays out on a spatial level—outer-urban neighborhoods that are predominantly home to people of color are often “redlined” by taxi companies, for various reasons. Earlier research has shown some of the same practices persist in the new apps.

But a dissertation from UCLA’s Institute for Transportation Studies paints a more promising portrait of access to Lyft in Los Angeles County. Contrary to the belief that ride-hailing primarily serves the affluent, it appears neighborhoods with low rates of car ownerhsip—which tend to be populated by people of color—actually see more pick-ups and drop-offs than others. But on the individual level, bias against certain passengers still persists.

Alongside a team of graduate researchers, Anne E. Brown (who received her Ph.D. from UCLA this year) analyzed trip-level records from more than 6.3 million Lyft journeys made within L.A. County in the fall of 2016. Previously unavailable to scholars or policymakers, this data was carefully negotiated upon with Lyft.

The most basic finding is striking: Virtually no neighborhood in the country’s most densely populated urban area has been left unpenetrated by Lyft. The company’s drivers serve 99.8 percent of the population of L.A. County. That in itself suggests that communities aren’t being systematically excluded.

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