You might have seen a litany of negative press directed at ride-sharer Uber—from trying to avoid regulations to issues of driver conduct and pay—but that hasn’t stopped the service and others like it from spreading. It’s now even popping up here in the Region.
It’s kind of a wonder such services have caught on at all in cities with cheap mass transit and traditional taxi services on top of that. Suburban areas like Northwest Indiana, however, are another story entirely. Between the suburban sprawl, the sheer expanse of the area, and the lack of major public transportation, it would seem like a setting where ride-sharing could flourish.
But could it replace driving as the regular commute for working people in Northwest Indiana? I had heard such (very possibly apocryphal) anecdotes of people who have ceased to own their own car and only use ride-sharing to get around. Skeptical, I did the math.
The results are shocking. Not shocking in that I was proven wrong, but shocking as to what degree I was correct.
For the sake of argument, let’s say gas costs $2.50 per gallon (it's actually slightly less at most Northwest Indiana stations last I checked), and a car has a 12-gallon tank. To fill up would cost $30. If the same car gets 20 miles per gallon, that would be 240 miles for $30.
Now let’s say that a five-mile shared ride costs $10 (which is actually lower than the average ride of the same length from Uber). At that rate, 240 miles would cost $480.
Yikes. Admittedly, I lowballed the numbers on gas mileage and tank size, but even if you increase them and factor in yearly car maintenance, driving yourself is still by far the cheaper option. And most ride-sharing services cost more than $10 a trip.
This isn’t to say Uber, or Lyft, or others are bad things. Speaking as someone who’s never used it, it sounds no less convenient than hiring a traditional driving service.
But then, who knows anyone who rides to work in a taxi every single day? Ride-sharing daily is probably just as much of a luxury for most people, and it certainly is no solution for a lack of public transit.