California fact of the day

UCLA students call about 11,000 Uber and Lyft rides that never leave campus every week, raising concerns about the environmental impact of unnecessary trips.

Here is the article, via Jessica Roberts.  I can’t say I am crazy about the framing however — have you tried walking across UCLA campus?  You could just as soon write an article criticizing the people who don’t do bulk shopping, thereby creating unnecessary car trips to the store.  Students who live on campus hardly seem like the worst environmental offenders or anywhere close to it.


Yes, going to class is an unnecessary trip if you're going there to learn this pseudo-environmentalist crap.


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This man holds a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black Belt.

Necessity is in the eye of the beholder.

Well, that is the problem, the beholders have decreed the trips unnecessary. At least that's what it looks like.

Beholders don't need Uber, they just float to class.

Well played.

Tyler, US driving habits in general aren't really okay. They're normal to you so you think they are.....

Also, according to Google maps it's a twenty one minute walk and a 6 minute cycle across UCLA...

This really is a case of lazy spoilt Americans, with more money than sense.

I think Tyler's point is the framing should be "US Driving habits" rather than "lazy students".

I can find walking routes of 1.5+ miles between locations within the UCLA campus. 11,000 rides a week works out to about 1 ride per student per month. The number of justified Uber rides is greater than zero: not all students are able-bodied, for example.

Yes, I think Americans drive too much, and no, I don't think all of those rides are sensible. But I'm not sure that UCLA students are an unusual subset of Americans.

It's a wee bit ironic that you mention 1.5 miles. That's really not far to walk. Plus most journeys will much shorter. And obviously some taxi rides are necessary for those distances... but vast majority of students should pretty much never need an uber round campus.

That said, I'd no idea there were so many students. So you're right that 11,000 a week isn't so much as it sounds.

Also, even when I was in better shape I couldn't run 1.5 miles in the 10 minutes between when one class ends and the next one begins. Some people have busy schedules because...we're trying to accomplish something.

It rains in LA 35 days out of the year. It's supposed to rain Saturday.
Also, sometimes it's quite hot.

One Uber a month doesn't seem like much to explain.

"11,000 rides a week works out to about 1 ride per student per month. "

This is the key statistic, which both the article and commenters have failed to notice, except for dan1111.

It's one frigging Uber ride a month.

This is a non-issue, regardless of what we think of the environment, lazy students, how large the UCLA campus is, etc.

And it's an urban California environment, so your bike gets stolen all the time.

That's why god made U-locks

That's why the devil made angle grinders.

Ps people *should* write articles about not driving to the shops for small errands.

I took the "environmental exposure assessment" course with Dr. Zhu......back on 2006. It was the best course during the masters =)

The link by Tyler is just mocking a poor undergrad with 2 articles in the university news site. This is the most cited article of Dr. Zhu and it's very important. Schools must not be close to highways

Now some numbers. 11K / 365 ~30 travels per day for a population of 40K students in an area of 1 mile by 1 mile. Almost nothing. As stated in the article, broken legs, sprained ankles or rain happen. Also, there's a large hospital, would you really sermon about smog and PM10 to a medical intern that requests a ride after a 16-24 hour shift?

Also, I'm very curious about these lines:

"UCLA students call about 11,000 Uber and Lyft rides that never leave campus every week, raising concerns about the environmental impact of unnecessary trips. UCLA Transportation determined this number using data provided by the two ride-hail companies, said Abdallah Daboussi, senior administrative planning and policy analyst at UCLA Transportation."

How Mr. Daboussi knows the 11K trips were requested by students and not teachers, admin personnel , relatives, cleaning staff, or simply visitors?

If they know the trips were requested by students that means Uber and Lyft gave user names along the trips data and the university compared those names to the university enrollment database. Data will be anonymized.....bla bla bla bla.

11,000 trips per week, not per year. 11k / 7 = ~1.5k per day.

It's curious to me that nobody has thought about the possibility of disabled or quasi disabled people who prefer rides to walking

Yeah, but what if you just have something heavy you don't want to carry, like a keg or multiple cases of Natty Light?

"--have you tried walking across UCLA campus?"

This isn't an alternative? And, it's "complimentary"!

Bus service from 7h00 to 19h00. Libraries open 24/7 during some periods, there's also a hospital that never closes . I wonder why people need transportation during the night.

No idea, those UCLA kids must go to bed early, they have no time to party. *grinface*

LOL. There appear to be a lot of sick UCLA students outside the hours of 7h00 and 19h00. I guess there must also is no ambulance service---or are they travelling from the dorm to the hospital to visit friends?

As for the libraries, a quick check reveals that most close between 5pm and 10 pm, with the latest at 11pm, but you apparently have a "different period" in mind. And, many are quite close to the main dorms and apartments---not completely across campus.

So, I guess if you want to take my question very literally, I'd have to admit that "you got me"!!!

Bruinbus is communist. Many people have been genocided by communism. So no Bruinbus. Uber and Lyft is capitalist. No other system created by man has lifted more people out of poverty than capitalism. I think the choice is clear.

Sounds like the perfect place to trial an autonomous vehicle service.

What would be the difference between 11.000 Uber/Lyft rides and 11.000 autonomous taxi rides?

You could make all the autonomous vehicles electric and harness California's extensive hydroelectric grid?

Cant they just make the manned Uber cars electric?

Even better, you could just build a tram line (which can be autonomous and is by nature electric) with multiple statons around the university campus and connect it to the city's traffic system. It's actually pretty laughable, that while around the world higher education and public transport walks hand-in-hand, UCLA seems to be accesible only by some second-grade bus lines (despite being located in the middle of SF).

*SF = LA, pardon my mistake

Yeah, that'll do. Spend a hundred million to buy the trolleys and lay the track (and the planning and the graft) and then millions more a year for maintenance and operation.

Or, you know, let those making those trips bear the costs of the trip themselves.

The UCLA campus is hardly that big. I used to walk between North and South campuses quite often, multiple times a week. If you are including Westwood Village in the campus, that isn't too much of a walk either. Getting cab rides to skirt around the UCLA periphery is crazy and wasteful.

'is crazy and wasteful'

No, it is just another part of the reason why American health care costs are absurd.

Yet strangely, many of the people complaining about high health care costs seem to have a problem with Americans not burning gasoline or advocating for creating a practical network of bike paths.

And seemingly feel that telling Americans to simply walk more is a bad way to frame the issue.

> No, it is just another part of the reason why American health care costs are absurd.

Talk about broken clocks being right twice a day.

Although, it's both crazy and wasteful, and an American habit that contributes to high healthcare costs.

That's not to mention that a typical student is not really going to have to crisscross the entire campus repeatedly during a day. While the overall campus may seem large on a map, the core area where most undergraduates (and grad students outside the med school and one or two others) is reasonably compact.

As another commenter points out, UCLA operates a bus service for the students, something not mentioned in the linked article. We had bus service at the two large public universities I attended many years ago. Free bus service. I think the message here is that the students at UCLA are (1) affluent enough to take a cab ride instead of the free bus (I suspect almost all of the Uber/Lyft accounts are linked to the parents' credit cards) and (2) they are not that into physical exercise like walking. Beyond the campus, the larger message here is that self-driving Uber/Lyft vehicles won't be the good substitute for efficient public transit that promoters are claiming; instead, all those self-driving vehicles with single passengers on short trips (to the mail box!) will create traffic congestion and air pollution that will choke our cities. Shout it from the rooftops.

Another commenter reminded me of how I got around on campus: my bicycle. Which I would ride from my apartment to the campus and around campus. Indeed, I had a car, but I might go weeks without using it because I used my bicycle to go about everywhere I needed to go. And I certainly was not alone, as many students used bicycles. Do college students today not use bicycles?

Affluence: I was an economics major but I took several political science courses because I thought they would be interesting (you know the real reason). One class must have had 100 students (I was accustomed to small classes, as economics was not the popular major back then that it is today). On the first day, the professor walks in, looks around with a look of disbelief, and asks how many in the class were political science majors. Most of the students raised their hands. The professor responded that the class is an indication of just how affluent America had become. I suspected that few of the students understood that they had been insulted (political science is a useless major that would only be pursued in an affluent country). Anyway, the mark of an affluent country back then (a useless major) has been replaced by students taking Uber or Lyft across campus. Do the students today taking Uber or Lyft also pursue useless majors? What sayeth Bryan Caplan?

FYI, mean lifetime earnings of poli sci majors (even after controlling for further education, i.e. not looking at lawyers) compare favorably to a wide variety of other majors, and better than many/most (e.g. business). As high as econ or engineering? No. A useless major? Hardly.

That success may be in spite of the poli-sci major, rather than because of it. The added value for most majors is questionable.

So what? Many Brazilian universities have free bus services and I do go around bragging about it. We do not need to take Chinese money to pay for busing.

It was different then. Here's two anecdotes from my college days. First, student dorms were not air conditioned. And this was in the South. Second, married student housing was an unsightly, sprawling complex of buildings without air conditioning and with concrete floors located several miles from campus, the location far from campus intended to separate the known sinners (the evidence was running around in diapers) from the unknown sinners. This was the world before Roe v. Wade. Do colleges even have separate married housing today?

No, but they have mixed dormitories. Such is life in Trump's America.

More proof, if any be needed, that the two highest priorities of most Americans are comfort and convenience.

I think those are the two highest priorities of most cultures. And UCLA is actually 60% Asian and Latino.

Wow, racism is rarely so blatant around here. 60% of UCLA is not American, they are Asian and Latino, says A-G

Okay. Asian-American and Latino-American.

Stop putting so much MSG in your chop suey. It makes you tense.

Not sure how that change makes you any less racist. You know what you meant.

Time is money. Why wait 15 minutes for a bus or walk 20 minutes when you can be there in five with a ride service.

Have you met students? What productive activities do you think they are substituting for walking/riding the bus?

While I think there is room to criticize the article, almost certainly laziness is the explanation for a significant portion of those rides.

My youngest graduates from college this spring. The college experience is nothing like 30 years ago.

Honestly, a bit of privation and sacrifice, walking a mile to class in January (not in LA either), scraping together enough money to entertain the food vs. drinking conundrum in April as money got tight. I figured that was part of the deal. It's mostly gone. Their loss.

OMG, my daughter and most of her friends were without maid service for the first time in their lives.

Youtuber Lindybeige has an excellent rant on why students shouldn't be rich (at university). It's part of the educational experience. The maturing.

"Why wait 15 minutes for a bus or walk 20 minutes when you can be there in five with a ride service." Or five minutes on your bike.

Time is money.

If that's the case, how much is a nightly six or seven hours of sleep worth? Maybe if you set that alarm for 3:30 am you could put in some time working on reports for the boss or recording some dictation to be disseminated to the untermensch.

'or walk 20 minutes '

Especially when you need to save that time to go to the gym later, right?

Uber helps the lazy skip leg day.

You must learn to love leg day.

If the reporter wasn't raising bogus 'concerns' she couldn't justify her employment to herself or her editor.

I'm willing to bet that even if they ban uber/lyft on campus, it would make zero difference to the environment. I don't mind Christians, environmentalists, or vegans, except when they start pushing their religion on the rest of us.

I could write an article criticizing the people who DO bulk shopping, because they waste more food.

I also disagree with the framing of the article. The story should be entirely about laziness and not a whit about carbon emissions.

There's an old episode of the Twilight Zone -- so, mid-20th Century -- where one character asks another, "How far is it from here? Is it walking distance?"

"About two miles," the other replies.

"Yep," says the first character, "that's walking distance."

A two-mile walk was entirely normal for me when I was growing up, and was a multiple-times-a-day experience when I was in college. This was 1998-2002. Granting that I may have walked a little more than the average student, it is still mind-blowing that people cannot seem to walk or bike such short distances.

Get outside, hold your head up, look out into the distance, hear the sounds and see the sights. It will change your life for the better.

"Have you seen the UCLA campus?" - Tyler
"LA is the best walking city in the country!" - also Tyler

UCLA obviously needs high speed rail on campus

CA less eco-conscious than Red State? My 50,000-plus alma mater doesn't even permit non-permitted cars to drive through campus. Last time I was there, dockless scooters were newly introduced; seemed popular, but not sure how affordable they are for routine trips. Most kids walk, many bike, and the school has bike maintenance kiosks around campus. Even had you been allowed to take a nostalgia drive through campus as you once could, one of the main drags has been converted to a pedestrian avenue, which transformed a less-appealing part of campus. Nobody seemed to be in a hurry - who has more free time than college kids?

Let them eat bicycles.

So that is it...

With enough WD-40, the chains should slide right down. Handlebars obviously need to be cut into smaller pieces. Tires and seat cushions will complement with other flavors and textures.

(I may err here if UCLA students do not in fact possess the healthy teeth and gums and strong jaws I am willing to attribute to them.)

You're looking for Monsieur Mangetout:

Terminal indigestion at age 57, ouch.

'Pataphysician by chance?

Lyft has spent 100s of millions on carbon offsets? How much revenue do they take in? (I looked this up, and 100s of millions still shocks me.)

Carbon offsets are a scam. Unless you actually use it to buy rain forest, deed it to a long term trust, and have people with guns and intention to use them keep out illegal loggers. Agreements with third world governments to preserve rain forests isn't worth the ink they're written on in the long term.

Also, most trees grown only represent a time shift of when the carbon gets returned to the atmosphere, a tiny fraction of the CO2 captured by a tree is expected to stay in the soil long term.

If you're serious about carbon capture by trees, the wood must be encapsulated in some way that does not lead to it burning or rotting in the future.

I am convinced carbon offsets are a scam to the advantage of the middlemen, and achieves nothing. If you captured CO2, and converted it into a synthetic liquid hydrocarbon, and pumped this into porous rock where it has so low concentration that it is not worth exploiting, that would be a valid carbon offset, but it probably would cost 100 times as much as the current carbon offset credits.

Zu said: “If so many Ubers are being used, there must be some rational reason.”
It's like economics does not exist.

There is always a reason, even if sanctimonious Marginal Revolution commenters wag their fingers or cannot figure it out.

I don't see a lot of head-scratching in the comments, and sometimes people do things that merit finger wagging. Other than that, good comment.

Imagining that the "reason" is necessarily interesting or salient is the beginning of inanition.

"I can’t say I am crazy about the framing however "
don't a lotta sociology studies actuallydepend on creative/dishonest framing
and the knowledge that few nonsociologists actually reads/understand the studies/statistics

"have you tried walking across UCLA campus?" Umm, it sprawls, but, this is Southern California. Which, when car traffic does not make walking unpleasant and/or dangerous, and distances are walkable, is (climate-wise at least) about as walkable as anyplace gets. It's certainly not like walking through Chicago slush.

And perhaps there is something excessive in using a 2-ton machine to commute across campus. But, if the alternative might be something like a mini-BART, at least it works while requiring minimal public spending.

I don't find UCLA that bad, but I have been known to walk miles and miles, just for fun.

But then this article could be stronger, if it had stats on distance and time of day. A girl Ubering a mile at midnight might be doing something quite different than a dude Ubering a half-mile at noon.

Just re-allocate some of the subsidies for motor vehicles towards bicycles.

Every 'free' street parking space costs somewhere close to $800 per year, given away 'for free' to car owners.

Why not subsidize bicycle ownership, or provide free communal bikes for these sorts of short trips?

That's where the cash usually comes from, gas taxes. Then the highway fund is short, so they get the 'subsidy' - to make up for bike paths. Stupid way to do accounting. I assume set up that way to avoid some kind of accountability or to enable fraud.

I live in Alaska, we haven't had ride-sharing very long, but most of the trips I've gotten have been in hybrid vehicles, whereas I don't know many people here with hybrid vehicles. It makes sense for a professional driver to invest in a vehicle with low fuel consumption, but the average collage student would probably buy a decades old clunker. It's not obvious to me that this is bad for the environment given the likely alternative vehicle is not Birkenstocks (people who would choose this option probably already are). Has anyone done an analysis of the fuel consumption of the average Uber car vs the average us car?

So the article quotes an aggregate number and starts talking about taking Uber to class. I would expect that many of the trips would be late night coming home from parties. Yet these trips are even mentioned.

Right. How many drunk driving accidents did this prevent?

If it is true that these were trips that never left campus, I seriously doubt that "coming home from parties" is a significant share of them, as either the party or "home" would very likely be off campus.

I'd be curious about how many of these rides are at night. The UCLA campus is pretty large--and wide open to the public. Meaning I'd be curious how much of this is laziness (which, I note, was the focus of the quotes) and how much of this is concern over safety walking across a massive campus at night.

Safety concerns might account for some cases. When I was at UCLA, they had an arrangement where the security office had a team of safety escorts (I forget their actual title, but I seem to recall the initials CSO). You could call the security office and have an escort come to where you were and walk you back to your dorm, to your car, or as I recall, even to your sorority or frat (which are located off campus but very close). Maybe they don't have that system any more.

". . . raising concerns about the environmental impact of unnecessary trips."

Its always some outside party standing there deciding whether or not *your* trip is unnecessary. Their trips, of course, are always necessary.

"have you tried walking across UCLA campus? "

Yes, I have, Tyler. I went to grad school there (in econ, as it happens). The core area of the campus, where the vast majority of students take their classes, is reasonably compact. While it's been a few years since I've been there, as I recall you could easily get from Macgowan (theater building, at the northeast end of the core area) to Boelter (engineering school, southwest corner of the core) in maybe 10-12 minutes. This is the recollection of someone who was, back then, a reasonably healthy but not particularly athletic grad student.

Since the students want cab rides, perhaps it's time to take a tip from tuk-tuks and tricyles (motorsidecars) in SE Asia. Smaller vehicles that only operate within UCLA but are privately run and of course use less fuel per ride.

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