London’s new late night alternative: The Night Tube + Uber
Posted by Santosh Rao, Policy Research Data Scientist
The London Underground (or the Tube) is the mobility backbone of Greater London and last year carried more than 1.3 billion passengers . But until recently, the tube did not run late at night or in the early hours. On August 19, 2016, the ‘Night Tube’ — a new service on the London Underground for passengers travelling between 12.30am and 5.30am on weekends — was introduced along the Central and Victoria lines. The objective was to cater to the increasing late night travel demand in London  by providing a reliable and affordable option.
The introduction of the Night Tube, in addition to providing Londoners with a new late night travel option, gave us a unique chance to further study how Uber integrates with and complements a city’s public transport network. We already know that nearly 4 in 10 Uber rides in London start or end within 200 metres of a tube stop, but this was an opportunity to dive in deeper.
You might find the results surprising. We found that Uber journeys starting within 200 metres of Night Tube stations during the hours when the Night Tube is operational have increased by 22%.
This seems counter-intuitive — how could a new Tube service increase ridership on both Uber and the Tube at the same time? A closer look at the figures reveals what’s happening (see map, below). First, a number of stations within zone 1 (central London) have seen a decline in Uber pickups during Night Tube hours — including near Lancaster Gate, Tottenham Court Road, and Warren Street stations. This suggests many Londoners are now choosing to take the Night Tube — a convenient, affordable option — to get out of central London.
The big change is outside of central London, where there’s been an enormous increase of 63% in Uber journeys starting near Night Tube stations. Some stations have seen particularly dramatic increases. For instance, Newbury Park, Woodford and North Acton are some of the stations that have seen an increase of more than 300%.
This suggests Uber enhances the Night Tube’s attractiveness because Londoners know they can rely on Uber to get the last mile home safely and affordably, once they reach their nearest tube station.
In order to verify that the large increase in Uber pickups near Night Tube stations during weekend late nights was primarily due to the Night Tube, we compared it to the growth observed during periods when the Night Tube was not operational. On weekday late nights (when the Night Tube is not operational) Uber trips starting near Night Tube stations between 1am and 6am outside zone 1 grew by only 4%, as shown by the grey bars in the accompanying chart. You can see both the weekday and weekend late night numbers below.
The launch of the Night Tube is a unique opportunity to understand how Uber helps public transport users get from their station to their front door. Because the Night Tube service is still limited to a small part of London, the importance of these ‘first mile/last mile’ links — whether by bus, Uber, walk, or bike — is more critical than ever. We’re excited to be playing a part in making the Night Tube even more successful — and helping make London a truly 24 hour city.
1. According to the TFL’s Annual Report the total passenger journeys on the London Underground was 1.349 billion in 2015–16.
2. Based on TFL’s annual ridership numbers (report), the night bus ridership has increased by 170% since 2000.