A new study conducted by economists at the University of Washington and Stanford shows that app-based, ride-sharing services discriminate much in the same was as yellow taxis. Black riders are denied service more often than Whites and women of all races are cheated into paying higher fares, they found.
According to The Atlantic, “They sent research assistants out as riders in two cities, Seattle and Boston, to hail nearly 1,500 rides using Uber, Lyft, and another service called Flywheel. The riders took screenshots of the apps to chronicle their experience, recording their estimated wait times, whether a driver accepted them, and where and when they were picked up and dropped off.”
Researchers found that Black riders experience longer wait times and are more likely to have their trip cancelled. In Seattle, the wait time was 16 to 28 percent longer for Black people than White. Reports the Atlantic, “And riders with ‘black-sounding names’ were significantly more likely to be canceled on than either white riders or black riders with ‘white-sounding names.’”
Women, regardless of race, also face discrimination. Female riders in Uber and Lyft were more likely to be taken longer—and more expensive—routes than men. Says the Atlantic: “’The additional travel that female riders are exposed to appears to be a combination of profiteering and flirting to a captive audience,’ the authors found.”
Uber has committed to improving their operations based on the study. “Discrimination has no place in society and no place on Uber,” said Rachel Holt, the head of Uber’s North American operations, in a statement to Bloomberg. “We believe Uber is helping reduce transportation inequities across the board, but studies like this one are helpful in thinking about how we can do even more.”
The researchers also discovered that as problematic as their findings were about Uber and Lyft, ride-sharing, app-based companies fared seemed to have a better track record picking up Black drivers than yellow taxis which could be hailed on the street.