Ride-sharing can help optimise road usage and free up space, study finds

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The Uber-commissioned study also claims that traffic congestion would drop by 90% in the most ideal case with ridesharing, but some from the audience are not convinced.

(Photo credit: The Sharing Economy Alliance)

A new study has suggested that the number of private cars in Hong Kong can be halved with ride-sharing, solving traffic congestion problem and freeing up space equivalent to 70 Victoria Parks in the process.

The study, commissioned by car-hailing app Uber and conducted by the Boston Consulting Group, looked into the impacts ride-sharing can have on nine cities in Southeast Asia, including Hong Kong, Singapore and Taipei.

According to Vincent Chin, Senior Partner & Managing Director of BCG, allowing ride-sharing to flourish can help optimise vehicle utilisation and new transport infrastructure. It was noted that Hong Kong car owners wasted on average six days a year in traffic congestion, and that congestion can be alleviated by as much as 90% during peak hours in the most ideal case.

“With dynamic routing and smart matching technology, you can be on the road only when you need to […] and take unnecessary mileages on the road out,” Chin stated during a seminar hosted by the Sharing Economy Alliance on Friday (10 November). “This is not about substituting public transport, […] it complements public transport.”

The report also surveyed 9,000 people in the nine cities, with 82% of respondents in Hong Kong saying that they would be willing to forgo purchasing a car if ride-sharing meets availability, price and timeliness standards.

The findings may have built a strong case for ride-sharing players such as Uber, Grab and Didi, which are currently deemed by the Hong Kong government as illegal operations. However, part of the audience was not totally convinced, with some even arguing that ride-sharing can – quite the contrary – lead to heavier congestion.

“I worry that if ride-sharing, or quasi-public transport, becomes too successful, it not only takes passengers away from the private mode, it also takes a lot of passengers away from the public mode. And therefore, you would end up having to build more roads,” lawmaker Michael Tien said. “The congestion may not be any less.”

“When you have a city with multi-modes of transport, you cannot say ‘let the market decide’. You have to somehow balance that. Hong Kong is always scarce of land, and hence we should limit our road space for mass public transports,” Tien added. “I actually don’t mind ride-sharing if people treat it as a last mile solution, but this is unlikely to be the case in Hong Kong.”

Meanwhile, Professor Bernard Lim, founding president of the Hong Kong Institute of Urban Design and a panel member at the seminar, called on Hong Kong’s transport officials and planners to design roads so they can be more efficient. “Still, in the past few years, I’m fascinated by the offers made by all these advanced technologies to use our roads more intelligently. […] That’s already a plus,” he asserted.

(Printer – R&R Publishing Limited, Suite 705, 7/F, Cheong K. Building, 84-86 Des Voeux Road Central, HK)