UCLA students use ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft for about 11,000 trips a week to get from one part of campus to another, and that has raised environmental concerns in a city that is often smothered by smog, the Daily Bruin says.
The report may also point up the conflicted attitudes of a younger generation that has become somewhat dubious about the automobile because of its damaging impact on the environment and urban traffic, and yet has also embraced ride-hailing as a quick and inexpensive way of getting around.
The student newspaper, citing university transportation officials, said most of the car trips by UCLA students are short, taken by students who said they slept in but did not want to get to class late and summoned an Uber. But all that traffic is raising concerns among the school’s transportation officials that the practice is contributing to smog in Los Angeles.
“The pollutants coming out of the tailpipe heavily contribute to Los Angeles' smog problem,” Yifang Zhu, an environmental health sciences professor, was quoted as saying. Zhu, who is also associate director of the university’s Center for Clean Air, said the trips alone are probably only part of the problem: Drivers idling their engines while waiting to pick up their riders could potentially contribute more air pollution than the rides themselves.
In recent years, researchers have suggested many millennials are less interested in driving and more interested in finding alternatives to the private automobile — though others argue that that conclusion has been overstated for a variety of reasons, including failing to consider ordinary economic trends. A University of Michigan study, for example, found that while Americans of all ages were giving up on driver’s licenses, the decline was biggest among teens and 20-somethings.
The research is clearer, however, that a younger, tech-savvy generation has popularized ride-hailing, particularly in urban areas. Pew Research Center found in 2016 that more than a quarter of 18- to 29-year-olds and about one in five people who are 30 to 49 years old have used ride-hailing services, compared with only 4 percent who are 65 and older.
The report says UCLA Transportation arrived at the number of campus ride-hailing trips by analyzing data provided by Lyft and Uber.