Tuesday, January 28

Popularity of brief Uber, Lyft rides on campus raises environmental concerns

Some researchers are worried about the environmental effect of unnecessary Uber and Lyft rides. (Daily Bruin file photo)

This post was updated Feb. 1 at 1:27 p.m.

UCLA students call about 11,000 Uber and Lyft rides that never leave campus every week, raising concerns about the environmental impact of unnecessary trips.

UCLA Transportation determined this number using data provided by the two ride-hail companies, said Abdallah Daboussi, senior administrative planning and policy analyst at UCLA Transportation.

Even though these are short trips, they still produce a large amount of carbon emissions, said Yifang Zhu, associate director of the Center for Clean Air and an environmental health sciences professor.

Tailpipe emissions are responsible for releasing various types of pollutants in most cars, she said. Typical chemical pollutants include carbon monoxide, particulate matter and nitrogen oxide.

“The pollutants coming out of the tailpipe heavily contribute to Los Angeles’ smog problem,” Zhu said.

Smog can also lead to a wide range of adverse health effects, including cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, lung disease and premature death, she said.

CJ Macklin, a Lyft spokesperson, said Lyft recognizes the need to prevent climate change, and that all Lyft rides across the country are now carbon neutral. He added that Lyft has invested millions of dollars in carbon offsets, such as renewable energy programs and forestry projects, to cancel out the carbon emissions from their rides.

“It’s just one way we are seeking a balance between providing a great transportation option for riders and protecting our planet,” he said.

Uber did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The short length of the trips may not be the only cause of increased emissions on campus, Zhu said. Drivers waiting for student riders with their engines on may also be part of the problem.

“Even if they are just circling around on campus waiting for customers to get in a car, there are likely to be emissions that are associated with the trips,” Zhu said.

She said the emissions that result from circling around campus while waiting for riders could potentially be greater than the emissions from the trips themselves.

“They go between classes, which is really bad,” she said. “In the morning, they say, ‘Oh I’m late for class, I can’t make it,’ and the Uber immediately shows up, so they must be just waiting around for students to get in.”

Alana Sur, a first-year psychobiology student, said her roommates have taken Ubers to their classes before, but only when it rained outside or when one injured their ankle.

“In those situations, it’s understandable, but otherwise, in a normal situation, you don’t need to be taking an Uber to class,” Sur said.

Sawsan Ezzedin, a fourth-year English and political science student, said she takes Ubers to class about three times a week.

“I prefer sleeping in over walking and getting home as quickly as possible,” she said.

Zhu said it is important to consider the various reasons why people engage in this practice in order to find a solution.

“We would need to look at evidence from different aspects, (as well as) feedback,” Zhu said. “If so many Ubers are being used, there must be some rational reason.”

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  • disqus_SDtZVxPTYQ

    The school would rather this happen than add more bruinbus routes and pay more drivers to expand their range. The reason students take so many Lyfts and Ubers is because the campus itself is inaccessible and actively punishes students who can’t walk 1 mile a minute. None of these trips are “unnecessary” if students need to get to class and obviously haven’t found another reliable way to do so.

  • Daniel Nolte

    Let me give a rideshare driver’s perspective on this. Yes I’ve given more than a few rides from one corner of campus to another and not just at UCLA. If anything the JCs and State Colleges have figured it out better. The trick is to have just a couple of well publicized rideshare zones with white curbs near bus stops and then encourage the e-scooter and bike rental outfits to cluster a supply there. That will wind up making it easy for the pooling algorithms to improve riders per car and reduce empty time driving from dropoff to pickup.

  • informed consent

    As undergrad, grad, and faculty, I spent more than 20 years on college campuses as geographically large as UCLA, yet in regions with far more inhospitable climates, such as northern Illinois. I walked in the rain, the snow, the blistering heat, and so much more; across dangerous roads and sometimes for miles. (And don’t even get me started on the challenges of grammar and high school, traveling daily from the farmland to the small town through snow as tall as I was, and rains that soaked everything.) There are certainly instances where public and private door-to-door transport is warranted, but sleeping in is not one of them. Nor is inclimate weather or other minor inconveniences. Most of these people have no need to not walk, they’re just lazy and perceive that they’re comfort is more important that the health of other living things. I personally can’t wait for the systems that support this kind of personal pampering to fail, forcing these soft kids (and far too many adults) use brave the “harsh” environment of central California. Bring a lawn chair and some beverages, it’ll be a hilarious show.

    • tanstagcopc

      I don’t blame them one bit for taking Uber/Lyft to class. This is UCLA we are talking about.

      In LOS ANGELES, not somewhere in central California.

      I can only hope the students at USC do the same, given their proximity to crime in downtown Los Angeles.

      Furthermore, I can see how a driver can use this to escape the nuuse of massive student loan debt by working in the morning then going to school in the afternoon and evening or driving on their days off from school to earn money to pay their way toward a graduation without debt!

      This would work even better @ The Ohio State University, the college with the largest campus in the country where people regularly face walks in the snow to get to their classroom only to discover that it’s cancelled that day because the instructor slipped, fell, and broke his or her leg halfway between the faculty parking lot and the building.

      But wait! Ohio State provides transport on campus already, in the form of busses that go throughout the campus and the city.

      Perhaps if this is such an issue UCLA should do the same!

  • Nook_The_Chosen

    How large is the campus? If it is several miles across then this is not about people being lazy or willfully causing pollution despite the obvious slant taken by the author of this piece.

  • Monkeyboy

    As long as my carbon footprint is lower than Al Gore’s I am not going to worry about any of my UBER/LYFT rides, so suck a tailpipe.

  • Randy Lee

    nothing is too trivial for ucla to complain about is it. that being said, it doesn’t paint the students in a good light if they are too lazy to walk across a college campus to make class. learn to manage your time. your mommy isn’t around to keep you in line any longer. its called part of growing up.