, Volume 41, Issue 5, pp 1099–1117 | Cite as

“Not just a taxi”? For-profit ridesharing, driver strategies, and VMT

  • Donald N. AndersonEmail author


The spread of GPS-based location services using smartphone applications has led to the rapid growth of new startups offering smartphone-enabled dispatch service for taxicabs, limousines, and ridesharing vehicles. This change in communicative technology has been accompanied by the creation of new categories of car service, particularly as drivers of limousines and private vehicles use the apps to provide on-demand service of a kind previously reserved for taxicabs. One of the most controversial new models of car service is for-profit ridesharing, which combines the for-profit model of taxi service with the overall traffic reduction goals of ridesharing. A preliminary attempt is here made at understanding how for-profit ridesharing compares to traditional taxicab and ridesharing models. Ethnographic interviews are drawn on to illustrate the range of motivations and strategies used by for-profit ridesharing drivers in San Francisco, California as they make use of the service. A range of driver strategies is identified, ranging from incidental, to part-time, to full-time driving. This makes possible a provisional account of the potential ecological impacts of the spread of this model of car service, based on the concept of taxicab efficiency, conceived as the ratio of shared versus unshared miles driven.


Taxicabs Ridesharing Vehicle miles travelled (VMT) Transport ethnography 



An earlier, much simpler version of these arguments was presented as a poster at the 2013 Consumer Culture Theory Conference in Tucson, Arizona, June 14, 2013. My thanks go to the ridesharing drivers who shared their time and perspectives with me. Comments and criticisms from editor Mark Horner and from three anonymous reviewers greatly improved this article. Its remaining faults are my own.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of AnthropologyUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA

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