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Take The CTA And Skip UberPool For Downtown Trips, Study Says

By Stephen Gossett in News on Jun 27, 2016 8:58PM

A new study released Monday by the Chaddick Institute of Metropolitan Development compares UberPool with public transit in terms of travel time and cost. The study concludes that, on average, UberPool is faster but more expensive than the CTA. We know. Shocker, right? (Apparently the Tribune thought so.)

But lead researcher Joseph Schwieterman believes the deeper details of the findings are more instructive.

The study timed and priced 50 UberPool rides and 50 CTA rides from identical start and end points. All 50 routes were limited to the North and Northwest Sides to “hold constant” as many variables as possible. Three different types of routes were studied: downtown-to-neighborhood, outer downtown-to-neighborhood and neighborhood-to-neighborhood.

“For me the biggest takeaway is the downtown-to-neighborhood, where a six-minute UberPool advantage is four times more expensive,” Schwieterman told Chicagoist. Average UberPool travel times for the route type were 43:39 compared to 49:39, but at a cost of $10.11 compared to $2.35. One would expect the CTA to perform relatively well in such a situation, given its vast infrastructure downtown and all the traffic a car would likely encounter. But that perhaps-higher-than-expect dollar figure is certainly worth keeping in mind.

Have App Will Travel / Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development

The study is not without its admitted shortcomings. Its focus on the North and Northwest sides could paint an overly "sanguine" picture of UberPool, the study says. "It's a legitimate criticism," said Schwieterman. "But the more spread out, the more you're spread thin. Our real goal was to develop a predictive model." Tendencies toward lower population densities, lower average incomes and some sporadic transit service are cited as reasons for a less robust UberPool market. Schwieterman imagines fewer shared ride trips, "although there could be a greater demand for a cheaper option."

"It's worth looking into," he says.

Indeed, especially since Uber and Lyft frequently tout their history of serving underserved neighborhoods. Something to consider while we take the CTA (or at least not UberPool) to work downtown.