Emanuel: Chicago Is Now the First U.S. City to Publish Detailed Ride-Hailing Data

An ad for UberPOOL in Chicago. Photo: flickr user Lauren
An ad for UberPOOL in Chicago. Photo: flickr user Lauren

Since at least 2017, the Active Transportation Alliance has advocated for making ride-hailing trip data public so that we can have a better sense of its impacts on the local transportation network and plan and legislate accordingly. The report of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Transportation and Mobility Task Force, released last month, made the same recommendation.

Today Emanuel, along with the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection and the Department of Innovation and Technology, announced that Active Trans will get its wish, since the city is publishing anonymized data from ride-hailing apps for providers like Uber, Lyft, and Via, on its Open Data Portal. According to the city, this makes Chicago the first city in the nation to publish detailed ride-hailing data.

“Making comprehensive and secure data available to the public is a fundamental element of good governance and a pinnacle of this administration,” said Emanuel in a statement. “With this information, we will better understand our transportation landscape and be prepared to solve future mobility problems.”

The city says the publication of these data sets, which will be updated quarterly as the ride-hailing companies share data with the city, represents early progress towards the task force report’s recommendations, and moves Chicago towards data uniformity and transparency.

Included in the publication are three sets of ride-hailing data:

  • Registered vehicles, including:
    • Make, Model, and Year
    • Month of last inspection
    • Total trips completed
  • Registered drivers, including:
    • Driver start month
    • City of Residence
    • Total trips completed
  • TNP trips, including:
    • Starting and ending location, collected by census tract
    • Starting and ending time rounded to nearest 15 minutes
    • Trip fare rounded to nearest $2.50 and tip rounded to nearest $1.00

The data is anonymized to protect the privacy of customers and drivers. Driver names are not included, trip times are rounded to the nearest 15 minutes, fares and tips are rounded to the nearest $2.50 and $1.00 respectively, and locations are aggregated by census tract. Additionally, further aggregation methods are undertaken to expand zones that had fewer than 3 trips in a given time period. A full explanation of the anonymization methods can be found here.

This information is published in a similar format to taxicab data, which the city says achieves the task force’s recommendation to develop uniform data sharing requirements. According to the city, the number of ride-hailing trips in lower-income community areas has doubled since 2015. “We encourage city partners, academic researchers, and curious residents to explore the data to better understand the impact of ride-hailing services in Chicago,” a city news release stated.

“The availability of [ride-hailing] data on the city’s Open Data Portal is vital to our ability to be innovative around the future of mobility,” said Brenna Berman, executive director of City Tech. “This data will inform our work to develop focused, collaborative, cross-sector pilots that further the recommendations made by the City’s Task Force.”

Ride-hailing companies are licensed through BACP’s Public Vehicles Division as Transportation Network Providers. At this time, there are only three licensed TNPs in Chicago: Uber, Lyft, and Via. As it stands, ride-hailing drivers must have their vehicles annually and undergo a uniform background check prior to starting work. Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot has said she will align licensing fees and background check requirements for ride-hailing drivers with the currently more stringent requirements for cabbies.

All right data geeks, now that this info is public, go out there and make us some cool, informative maps!

  • what_eva

    Something I’ve been noticing a lot lately is uberlyft drivers with out of state license plates and I’m not just talking Indiana/Wisconsin. That strikes me as something that should be outlawed.

  • Tino Soto

    Very true, I’ve noticed many Missouri and Minnesota plates.

  • ardecila

    Seems like this should be a huge boon for transit planners! Ideally CTA and Pace could use this to plan new direct bus routes across the city or prioritize upgrades to existing routes like shelters, signal preemption, or bus lanes.

  • ardecila

    What’s your objection here? If Uber and Lyft are luring people to migrate from other states, then that should be a good thing for the city. It’s not like these people are commuting back to Iowa at night.

    I guess they don’t pay into the kitty for Illinois license plate stickers or Chicago city stickers, but they do kick back many times that amount in rideshare fees.

  • what_eva

    Because if you want to use your car to make money than pay your taxes. Taxis have to be licensed in the city to operate within the city. Suburban taxis can only go city to burbs or vice versa. Is it really asking so much that some driver not be allowed to drive for uber with freaking New Jersey plates like I saw last week?

  • Carter O’Brien

    “It’s not like these people are commuting back to Iowa at night.

    Exactly, but not in the sense you mean. It’s bad enough we have so many residents who keep their cars registered at the p’s house in the burbs or out of state, leaving the rest of the us to make up the difference wrt to city and state stickers. But compounding that injustice in the form of a business advantage is unethical.

  • ardecila

    Ok but that’s not a problem with Uber drivers, it’s a problem with transplants in general. Why should the low income individual driving for Uber get punished while the Big Ten grad tech bro from Ohio gets away with it? As I pointed out, the Uber driver already contributes quite a lot toward road maintenance thru the ride share fees.

  • Carter O’Brien

    I’d like to see a crackdown on this altogether as it also results in city folks paying more more auto insurance than we should. Nevertheless, your counterargument of “contributes quite a lot” isn’t exactly a real standard, so let’s see your math.

    The numbers should include mileage and maintenance connected to the fact the Uber drivers are almost certainly putting a lot more wear and tear on the streets.

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