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Study: Uber, Lyft responsible for significant rise in traffic in 6 US cities

Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. contributed significantly to vehicle activity in six major cities during September 2018, according to a study commissioned by the ride-hailing rivals.

Uber and Lyft vehicle activity was highest in San Francisco County, according to the study, contributing about 12% to 14% of vehicle miles traveled, or VMT. The rest of the activity was from other passenger and freight vehicles, the study said.

The study, led by transportation consulting agency Fehr & Peers, examined the number of vehicle miles traveled in six metropolitan regions: Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C. The study examined data from September 2018 because it represented a nonsummer month with minimal holiday activity, according to the study.

Chris Pangilinan, Uber's head of global policy for public transportation, said in an Aug. 5 post on Medium that the study was conducted to understand how roads are being used so that the companies could develop the "right policies" that expand mobility.

Pangilinan said the study looked at data collected by Uber and Lyft, along with federal, state and local authorities.

The study examined data from the regional area of each city, including surrounding areas, along with data from the core county where each city is located, which had the higher number of ride-hailing-related vehicle activity.

In Seattle's King County, 1.5% to 2% of all VMT was generated by Lyft and Uber services in September 2018, the lowest when compared to the other five cities.

In Boston's Suffolk County, about 7% to 8% of total VMT was generated by Lyft and Uber services in September 2018.

In Washington, D.C., the results came in at 6% to 7%, while Chicago's Cook County saw approximately 3% to 4% of the total VMT caused by Uber and Lyft.

In Los Angeles County, about 2% to 3% of all VMT generated was due to Lyft and Uber services in the period.

"The research shows that despite tremendous growth over the past decade, [ride-hailing] use still pales in comparison to all other traffic, and although [ride-hailing services] are likely contributing to an increase in congestion, its scale is dwarfed by that of private cars and commercial traffic," Uber's Pangilinan said.

Lyft did not immediately respond to a request for comment by S&P Global Market Intelligence.