News

Uber overstates Chicago economic impact

Rideshare in Chicago is already kind of a hot mess. Think 4 a.m. pickups by strangers ghost-riding their pink-mustache-adorned whips. And now it's sloppier: lawsuits, regulatory proposals and threats of outing secretly gay aldermen. (If you don’t know all the facts, RedEye reporter Leonor Vivanco has covered the topic like a pro. Go here and here to get your hands dirty.)

And as the ridiculousness grows, rideshare companies are scrambling to prove their worth in the local taxi market. Uber tried to get serious this week by publishing the results of an economic impact study. Hardly any local news outlets, including RedEye, picked it up.

The study, conducted by paid economics consultancy ECONorthwest, found that Uber had a roughly $46 million gross total impact on Chicago’s economy.

[Insert eye roll here.] Shame on you, Uber.

My hope is that RedEye readers, who are also probably rideshare customers, know very well that these numbers are simply political fodder.

That $46 million is overstated. It's a big, sexy number, but anything that seems too good to be true usually is. And worse, Uber isn't clear: are they referring to all services or just rideshare?

And though I have a bent toward economics, I checked out my hypothesis with UChicago economist Paula Worthington. She agrees.

“$46 million is going to completely misstate the impact if Uber disappeared overnight,” she said. “Many of these rides are coming from rides that were previously being taken in some other way.”

If UberX disappears, I’m probably not going to walk to the Blue Line from a late night at Parson’s Chicken and Fish, wait on a train, and stumble home. I’ll hail a cab. A cab that I didn’t hail from my cellphone. A cab that won’t come get me at Parson’s front door. A cab that will charge me too much, driven by a cabbie who will probably hate me for my slushy-negroni consumption.

You see, Uber, we “under-30s,” as Worthington called us, love you for you. We’ll stick with you because we want lower fares and cellphone convenience. And let’s face it, rideshare drivers are generally pretty cool. (Does anyone else want to party with them? Best friends!)

Lyft and UberX are providing a new service. They brought technology into an industry that was well behind the times. So, Uber, stop spending money on fancy economic impact consultants, and start rallying the troops.

Uber's money could be better spent on bolstering its position in the market: Give me even lower fares. Make rideshare safer. Work with the city to create a sustainable business model. I want you around forever.

How else am I going to get home from my adult bowling party tonight? (Oh, and who still goes bowling? I’ll Instagram my shoes or something. @MonroeSchultz.)

Want more? Discuss this article and others on RedEye's Facebook page

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • Oklahoma fraternity's racist chant learned on a cruise
    Oklahoma fraternity's racist chant learned on a cruise

    Members of a University of Oklahoma fraternity apparently learned a racist chant that recently got their chapter disbanded during a national leadership cruise four years ago that was sponsored by the fraternity's national administration, the university's president said Friday.

  • In NYC building collapse, mayor cites 'inappropriately' tapped gas line; 2 missing
    In NYC building collapse, mayor cites 'inappropriately' tapped gas line; 2 missing

    Someone may have improperly tapped a gas line before an explosion that leveled three apartment buildings and injured nearly two dozen people, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday as firefighters soaked the still-smoldering buildings and police searched for at least two missing people.

  • Construction ongoing at Wrigley Field
    Construction ongoing at Wrigley Field

    From bleachers to structural details, work to renovate Wrigley Field continues.

  • Emanuel uses borrowing to cope with Daley's debt burden
    Emanuel uses borrowing to cope with Daley's debt burden

    Mayor Rahm Emanuel has reduced spending and increased fines, fees and certain taxes to shrink the chronic budget deficits left over from his predecessor, Richard M. Daley.

  • Six Flags Great America's lost attractions
    Six Flags Great America's lost attractions

    Not every ride's the Willard's Whizzer. That iconic coaster debuted in 1976 when Marriott's Great America, now Six Flags Great America, in Gurnee, Ill., first opened. And it's still popular today. But for every Whizzer there's a Tidal Wave, Shockwave or Z-Force, rides existing only in memory.

  • Denim's just getting started
    Denim's just getting started

    Five years ago, denim-on-denim defied all of the dire warnings in the "Undateable" handbook: Instead of evoking John Denver or Britney Spears in her misstyled youth, chambray shirts paired with darker blue jeans became as cool as actor Johnny Depp and street-style heroine Alexa Chung.

Comments
Loading