Measuring when Uber behaves as a substitute or supplement to transit: An examination of travel-time differences in Toronto

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - north america, place - urban, ridership - behaviour, planning - service level, planning - surveys


Ride-hailing, Uber, Public transit, Travel-time differences, Travel behaviour


Policymakers in cities worldwide are trying to determine how ride-hailing services affect the ridership of traditional forms of public transportation. The level of convenience and comfort that these services provide is bound to take riders away from transit, but by operating in areas, or at times, when transit is less frequent, they may also be filling a gap left vacant by transit operations. These contradictory effects reveal why we should not merely categorize all ride-hailing services as a substitute or supplement to transit, and demonstrate the need to examine ride-hailing trips individually.

Using data from the 2016 Transportation Tomorrow Survey in Toronto, we investigate the differences in travel-times between observed ride-hailing trips and their fastest transit alternatives. Ordinary least squares and ordered logistic regressions are used to uncover the characteristics that influence travel-time differences. We find that ride-hailing trips contained within the City of Toronto, pursued during peak hours, or for shopping purposes, are more likely to have transit alternatives of similar duration. Also, we find differences in travel-time often to be caused by transfers and lengthy walk- and wait-times for transit. Our results further indicate that 31% of ride-hailing trips in our sample have transit alternatives of similar duration (≤15 minute difference). These are particularly damaging for transit agencies as they compete directly with services that fall within reasonable expectations of transit service levels. We also find that 27% of ride-hailing trips would take at least 30 minutes longer by transit, evidence for significant gap-filling opportunity of ride-hailing services. In light of these findings, we discuss recommendations for ride-hailing taxation structures.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


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