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Black passengers wait longer for Ubers, taxis — and get more cancellations, study finds

Black passengers experience more cancellations and longer wait times on Uber, Lyft and taxis than whites, Asians and Hispanics, according to a new UCLA study titled Ridehail Revolution: Ridehail Travel and Equity in Los Angeles.
Black passengers experience more cancellations and longer wait times on Uber, Lyft and taxis than whites, Asians and Hispanics, according to a new UCLA study titled Ridehail Revolution: Ridehail Travel and Equity in Los Angeles. Gene J. Puskar AP

It's more challenging to get a taxi, Uber or Lyft ride — and have it come on-time — if you are black, according to a new study from the University of California, Los Angeles.

For the research, study author Anne Brown had a diverse group of 18 UCLA students request over 1,700 rides in Los Angeles.

She broke down the number of cancellations by the race of the caller, the study says, and also tracked the average wait time for both ride-sharing apps and taxis.

The study found some challenges for black passengers to find a timely driver on Uber and Lyft — and even bigger racial gulf for taxis.

Lyft and Uber

Black passengers had Lyft drivers cancel 7 percent of their ride requests, the study found, while white passengers only had that happen 3 percent of the time. Asians and Hispanics each had 5 percent of their Lyft requests canceled.

For Uber, black drivers had 6 percent of their requests canceled. White passengers had that happen 2 percent of the time, the study found, while Asians and Hispanics experienced it on 3 percent of their ride requests.

There were longer wait times, too: Black passengers had to wait about a minute longer for a ride on Lyft and Uber than white passengers.

It's not the first time a study has found a connection between race and the ease of getting a ride across town. A 2016 study published in the National Bureau of Economic Research found black people in Seattle waited up to 35 percent longer for their Uber ride than white people.

It also found that Uber drivers are more likely to cancel on people who had "black-sounding names." There were also longer wait times for black passengers attempting to get a ride using the Lyft application.

Lyft said it was working to avoid ride discrimination after that 2016 study came out, according to USA Today. Uber spokesman Andrew Hasbun wrote in a statement that his company has "improved access to transportation in historically under-served communities and reduced the potential for discrimination."

Both Uber and Lyft have non-discrimination policies that protect riders regardless of race, gender and sexual orientation, among other identities. Each policy says a driver who is found to violate the rules will lose their job with the ride-sharing company.

Taxis

The UCLA study indicates that taxis have more problems when it comes to equal treatment of all riders.

Black passengers had to wait an average of 30 minutes for a taxi ride, the study says, while it only took white passengers 20 minutes. Asians and Hispanics were right in the middle of those two groups with an average wait of just under 25 minutes.

Black passengers have a 73 percent higher chance of taxi driver canceling their ride when compared to a white passenger, the study says.

A 2015 study found that black people are twice as likely than white people to say a taxi driver ignored their request for a ride. Sixty-six percent of black respondents in that study agreed that taxi drivers discriminate based on race, with 47 percent of white people agreeing.

Brown explained why she is more confident that Uber and Lyft will be able to reverse these trends than taxi services.

"From an equality point of view, there's some way to go before the gap between riders is truly erased, but it's far narrower with ride-hailing," she told USA Today, "and with some policy changes, (Uber and Lyft) could erase the racial gap between riders entirely.

"Taxis don't have great accountability."



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