The rise of Uber and other ride-hailing services are disrupting transportation industries left and right, sometimes in unexpected ways. Aside from leading to whole new models of taxi distribution and part-time work for drivers, Uber is also significantly impacting many cities’ crime and accident rates. Several cities have seen DUI rates fall since the introduction of Uber and Lyft, while others have actually strangely seen DUI rates increase. Most recently, a new study published by economists from the University of Kansas has found that cities with Uber have a much lower rates of ambulance usage. While that’s certainly good news, the reason might surprise you.
The study examined ambulance data from 766 U.S. cities in 43 different states. In cities with Uber coverage, the data showed a 7% decrease in ambulance usage per capita. For one, that decrease is due to sick or hurt individuals preferring to use Uber to catch rides to hospitals as opposed to calling ambulances. While this can certainly save patients money given the astronomically high prices of ambulance rides, it can also help improve the efficiency of cities’ ambulance networks altogether. According to the study, this decreased ambulance usage leads to shorter wait times overall for ambulances:
This decrease likely caused a reduction in wait time for the remaining ambulance volume. Given that even a reduction of a few minutes can drastically improve survival rates for serious conditions, this could be associated with a substantial welfare improvement. Overall, our results suggest that Uber entry into a city, in addition to the more straightforward consequences found by others, has this additional positive impact on unnecessary ambulance usage.
Other studies have found that increased access to low-cost transportation leads to increased access to health care and lower costs overall. As Uber and other taxi-hailing apps continue to revolutionize cities, we very well could see other secondary benefits start revealing themselves. Lower food delivery costs? Let’s hope so.