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Uber Offers a Limited Look at Ridership Data

KUT News
Ride-hailing app Uber presented a study of the ridership habits in Austin yesterday, but the study comes amid city council scrutiny over the company's disclosure agreement.

The ride-hailing operator Uber offered a case study on what it means to ride and drive using their app here in Austin. The information comes amid City Council discussion of the disclosure requirements for companies like Uber.

Uber’s Chief Advisor David Plouffe says half the service’s contractors drive less than 10 hours a week. The study surveyed the major reasons why drivers work  with Uber:

  • 91 percent of the “driver-partners” said they drive to make some extra cash
  • 87 percent said they like being their own boss
  • 85 percent like the flexibility of work scheduling
  • 74 percent characterized income from the service as dependable, as opposed to other sources

32 percent of the trips begin or end in East Austin and 50 percent of the service’s “partners” come from that same enclave.
Plouffe also says the app has 500,000 users in Austin, “more than half the people who live in this city.”

Credit Uber

But the study overall was a response to the company’s close-handedness when it comes to ridership data. When the Austin City Council approved operations for both “transportation network companies” Uber and Lyft last year, the approval came with a caveat: Both firms were required to share data with the city.

With this study, Uber answered some of those questions, such as how long it takes from request to pick-up.

“Three minutes,” Plouffe says. “No matter where you are, no matter what you look like, no matter what your last name is. Three minutes.”

While it’s likely the City of Austin appreciates the show of good faith in the study’s numbers, at a meeting in August GordonDerr with the Austin Transportation Department voiced a need for “all the data we can get, so we can get a clearer picture as we move forward."

While the city wants both Uber and Lyft to cough up more data – pick-up and drop-off patterns, what rides cost and how long they last – and log this information in four-hour intervals, which would be collected and submitted to them monthly.

Both companies say that data is proprietary and that any dissemination of it could give competitors a leg up. Council members and staff will take up the issue again tomorrow at the council’s Mobility Committee

Audrey McGlinchy is KUT's housing reporter. She focuses on affordable housing solutions, renters’ rights and the battles over zoning. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @AKMcGlinchy.
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