What Happens when the Uber Tailpipe Smoke Clears: An Examination of the Impacts of Ride-hailing in Canada

Mischa Young, PhD thesis, Department of Geography & Planning, 2020
Professor Steven Farber, Supervisor


Despite starting as a more convenient way to hail taxis, ride-hailing services (e.g. Uber and Lyft) have rapidly evolved into much more with the introduction of their peer-to-peer services in 2014. By no longer confining their algorithms to matching passengers with taxis, and allowing private vehicle owners to also serve as drivers, ride-hailing companies drastically expanded their pool of available drivers and experienced monumental growth in the process. Ride-hailing services have now become ubiquitous in the urban mobility landscape of cities worldwide, and have rapidly positioned themselves among the most valuable companies within the transportation sector. Yet, despite their growing role within cities, the impacts of this mode remain contested and largely misunderstood.

The purpose of this dissertation is to explore several of the key impacts of ride-hailing on existing transportation systems and their users within the Greater Toronto Area and assess whether policies should be developed to encourage or deter its usage. In Chapter 2, I identify potentially marginalized groups – both socioeconomically and spatially – that may be excluded from ride-hailing, and define improvements to the data collection process that must take place to ensure ride-hailing limits transport inequalities. I further expose how the benefits of this mode may not be distributed equally in Chapter 3 by exploring the socioeconomic and trip characteristics of ride-hailing users. In Chapter 4, I show that ride-hailing behaves both as a substitute and supplement to transit, and demonstrate the need to consider trips individually. Chapter 5 focuses on shared ride-hailing services, and identifies factors that influence the matching propensity and detour penalty associated with shared trips. Lastly, Chapter 6 is my attempt to partake in the broader ride-hailing regulation discussion, as I caution against the premature legalization of this service.

Together, the results of this research substantially improve our understanding of the many ways in which ride-hailing services impact our cities, and offer a practical contribution to policymakers seeking to properly regulate this service.

Access via TSpace / U of T Libraries: Abstract and full thesis “What Happens when the Uber Tailpipe Smoke Clears: An Examination of the Impacts of Ride-hailing in Canada.”

Supervisor contact information

Professor Steven Farber
Tel: (416) 208-5120