The District was followed by Massachusetts and California, with growth rates of nearly 37 percent and nearly 25 percent, respectively, in the transportation and warehousing sector. The online magazine Entrepreneur, citing a data analysis by Zen99, found that D.C. ranked first as providing opportunities for ride-sharing drivers, followed by Boston and San Francisco. Both Massachusetts and California, incidentally, had large pools of Uber drivers who pursued a class action against the San Francisco-based ride-sharing company. A settlement in the litigation was announced earlier this year.
What’s more, it also looks as if much of the growth is concentrated in California – and the San Francisco area in particular, which happens to be the cradle of the so-called gig economy. In analyzing the 50 counties with the highest number of businesses without employees, Census found that California was home to six of the 10 fastest growing counties, and San Francisco topped them all, with 61.5 percent growth.
First, some caveats are in order: the data come from the May 24 Census report on the number of businesses without paid employees, and they were developed by analyzing business receipts and administrative records. These employer-owned and –operated businesses could include gigs pet-sitting, blogging, selling real estate or operating a family-run store, such as a bodega. The data are not specific enough to tease out how much ride-sharing alone contributed to the overall surge.
But the sector that propelled the increase was transportation and ware-housing — and the subsector of that category that grew the fastest was transit and ground-passenger transportation. This includes chartered buses, and self-employed taxi and limousine services, of which ride-sharing is likely a part, Census Bureau spokesman Robert Bernstein said.
“We can say that that subsector was indeed the fastest-growing within the sector, but we don’t know how much of that growth was attributable to ride-sharing. That subsector also includes self-employed taxi drivers,” Bernstein said in an email.
But if ride-sharing appears to play a part, it’s also been well documented that that services such as Uber, Lyft, and Split have been popular in D.C., particularly among its fast-growing population of millennials.
Now consider Metro’s woes. Ridership grew for 13 years straight beginning in 1996, reaching a peak of 225 million passenger trips in 2009. Beginning in 2010, however, ridership began to fall, eventually reaching a level not seen since 2004. The agency’s latest quarterly report says ridership had fallen more than 6 percent through December 2015 compared to the previous year. Metro has cited, among other factors, the system’s lack of reliability as a chief concern, as people had to budget more time for travel. Almost daily service interruptions because of safety concerns have only driven people to find more alternatives.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens with those numbers once Metro begins its massive SafeTrack rebuilding program this weekend. Uber and its competitors have already made it clear that they plan to take up the slack.
[Disclosure: Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos is an Uber investor.]