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Nationwide Ride-Hail Strike Plunges Chicago Into a State of… Relative Tranquility

Chicago streets seemed to a bit more chill today thanks to the ride-hail strike. Photo: John Greenfield

First let me say that I am 100-percent in support of today's strike by Uber and Lyft drivers. Not only is it beneficial for society when all workers make a living wage, but as Streetsblog USA recently reported, better pay for ride-hail drivers and/or capping the number of drivers, is good for everyone. That's because it reduces the amount of time the drivers spend "deadheading," cruising around looking for passengers.

That said, I was really looking forward to today's strike, because it seemed likely to offer a break from the many downsides of ride-hail, including increased driving, crashes, congestion, and pollution. It also seemed like it might boost transit ridership, walking and biking. I haven't seen figures for Chicago participation in the strike yet, but it was a significant happening in some peer cities. Somewhere under 200 drivers rallied today at Los Angeles International Airport, for example.

Curbed reported that about 17,000 Chicagoland drivers had committed to participate in the strike, according to the the local nonprofit Chicago Rideshare Advocates. Chicago drivers planned to gather near Buckingham Fountain for a rally this afternoon, but I haven't seen any news or social media coverage of the event yet.

This is highly anecdotal, and perhaps the power of suggestion was a factor, but I saw several posts on social media today stating that there was noticeably less ride-hail traffic in the city today. People commented that, as a result, Chicago was a more relaxing place to walk and bike.

Who is looking closely at traffic today in city centers with the Uber/Lyft strike? What about bus speeds? @stevevance @greenfieldjohn @Metroplanners @cta @ChicagoDOT @sambjoyce

— Lucas Stephens (@LucasStephens2) May 8, 2019

Bike courier Jonathan Loïc Rogers posted on Facebook that working downtown today was "glorious." His estimate that there was 40 percent less car traffic than usual might be a little optimistic, but it certainly suggests that there was a pronounced difference from business as usual.

"I didn't see any cars double parked in the Damen bike lane this AM," tweeted occupational therapist Randall Wesley.

Transportation and land-use researcher Lucas Stephens tweeted that he didn't perceive a spike in ridership on his commute on the #6 Jackson Park Express bus, "but I noticed less traffic on [Lake Shore Drive] and coming up Michigan."

Technical and medical editor Sophie Michals tweeted that the #74 Fullerton eastbound bus was fairly crowded at 8:10 this morning. "I heard some people on the bus talking about the ride-share strike and saying that's why they were taking the bus."

"Traffic on Clark was much nicer this morning," posted bike advocate David Gebhardt on Facebook. "I only saw two Uber cars."

I'll update this post with stats about today's ride-hail use and and transit ridership if they become available. But what was your impression -- was your commute more peaceful because of an apparent decrease in ride-hail trips? Let us know in the comments.

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