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
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.

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.

  • David Gebhart

    It was good to feel the physical results of worker solidarity in action. Take that, tech oligarchs!

  • Brandon

    Only about 15 % of ride share drivers in Chicago committed to the strike and media reports indicate “the protests don’t appear to have significantly impacted traffic, service, or surge pricing.”

    https://chicago.curbed.com/2019/5/8/18535633/uber-lyft-drivers-strike-protest-ipo

  • The Dude

    just curious, how does improved pay for TNC drivers reduce deadheading?

  • johnaustingreenfield
  • So just as some ex-hailers got back on the bus the bus ran smoother? Can we hope for a feed-back loop?

  • BlueFairlane

    Yeah, I would love to see some actual numbers on this, if they were to exist, but I highly doubt any of these perceived impacts are real. This is an example of the power of suggestion.

  • sebastian

    How about riders start tipping more, I take people to long distances, and get no tips whatsoever.

  • rohmen

    17,000 out of an apparently 109,000 registered drivers is an unfortunately low number, though the strike could have had a much bigger impact through drivers not logging on while not specifically indicating they were participating, and app users themselves participating by not using the app.

    Regardless of the actual impact, it got a lot of press, and that hopefully gets Uber and Lyft to react. Uber and Lyft need to both step up and self-regulate regarding the ridiculous number of drivers on the roads, or else they’re going to see cities go the NYC route and start enforcing a minimum wage and restrictions on how many active drivers are out at a time (and Chicago should pass those regs if the companies don’t step up quickly).

  • Baloo Uriza

    Just goes to show that the world is a better place without the illegal cabs.

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