At Uber, our primary mission has always been to reduce personal car use by providing a reliable way to get from A to B. This is a goal we share with cities around the world, and for good reason: reducing personal car use holds the potential to reduce the negative impacts of transportation including congestion, pollution, traffic accidents, and the vast amounts of space used for parking.
However, it’s hard for a single alternate mode of transportation to compete with the comfort and reliability of the personal car. Ultimately, multiple different modes — public transit, biking, bikeshare, carshare, rideshare, and walking — need to work together to get people out of their cars. Why? Because while no individual mode is ideal for every situation, when combined into a ‘multi-modality suite’ they are better placed to provide the rider with an ideal transportation option for every situation. For example, during congested times, mass transit or bikeshare are often faster than taking an Uber. Conversely, when it’s raining, most people will prefer Uber or public transit over bikeshare or walking.
Until recently, Uber primarily meant a ride in a car. That changed in February 2018, when Uber riders in San Francisco could book a JUMP bike — an electric-assist smart bike — using the Uber app. For the first time, riders could choose seamlessly between two very different transportation modes in our app. This in turn gave us a unique window into how and when users choose between taking an Uber versus an eBike. We looked at early JUMP adopters* to test some of our multimodality hypotheses and better understand how the two modes work together.
First and foremost, for this cohort of riders, overall trip frequency (Uber + JUMP trips) increased by 15% after their first JUMP ride. The entire increase can be attributed to the use of eBikes; Uber trips actually declined by 10%. During the workday (Mon- Fri, 8a-6p) when congestion is at its worst, this decline in early adopters’ Uber trips was even higher, 15%. To sum up, eBikes were popular with these early adopters and some Uber trips, especially during congested periods, were replaced by JUMP trips. This is a promising early sign of the ability of eBikes to alleviate congestion and reduce car trips. The fact that demand for eBikes is currently constrained by limited supply (there are only 250 JUMP bikes in San Francisco) makes this all the more promising.
The breakdown of usage by time of day provides an interesting picture (see figure below). More than two-thirds (69%) of all JUMP trips happened during the day (8a-6p) whereas the majority of Uber trips (54%) happened outside of this period. The two modes, therefore, exhibit natural temporal complementarity with Uber usage higher during the nights when riders may be less likely to get on an ebike.
How did this cohort of early adopters change their behavior during unfavourable biking conditions? We were able to get a glimpse of this by studying behavior on Friday, Apr 6th — a day with abnormally heavy rainfall in San Francisco.
That Friday, JUMP trips were 78% lower than the Friday average. On the other hand, Uber trips saw a 40% increase which means, instead of being stranded, some of these riders replaced their usual Friday JUMP trip with an Uber ride. Riders were able to switch seamlessly between modes and reliably get to their desired destination.
The above results are preliminary signs of different modes complementing each other in different ways to create a comfortable and reliable experience that can compete with the personal car. As we broaden our multimodal suite with more JUMP bikes and other transportation options, giving up one’s personally owned car (and replacing those vehicle trips with a combination of several modes, particularly shared and active ones) becomes an increasingly convenient and cost-effective move.
*for this analysis, early JUMP adopters are defined as riders who averaged at least 1 trip a week (Uber or JUMP) before and after their first JUMP ride and have taken more than 1 JUMP ride in their lifetime.