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Socioeconomic and usage characteristics of transportation network company (TNC) riders

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The widespread adoption of smartphones followed by an emergence of transportation network companies (TNC) have influenced the way individuals travel. The authors use the 2017 National Household Travel Survey to explore socioeconomic, frequency of use, and spatial characteristics associated with TNC users. The results indicate that TNC riders tend to be younger, earn higher incomes, have higher levels of education, and are more likely to reside in urban areas compared to the aggregate United States population. Of the TNC users, 60% hailed a ride three times or less in the previous month, indicating that TNC services are primarily used for special occasions. TNC users use public transit at higher rates and own fewer vehicles compared to the aggregate United States population. In fact, the TNC user population reported similar frequencies of use for both TNC services and public transit during the previous month. Approximately 40% of TNC users reside in regions with population densities greater than 10, 000 persons per square mile compared to only 15% for non-TNC users. Lastly, reported use of public transit for TNC users living in large cities (> 1 million) with access to heavy rail was almost three times greater when compared to similar sized cities without heavy rail. The average monthly frequency of TNC use was also elevated when heavy rail was present.

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  1. “Large” refers to MSAs with populations greater than the median population while “small” refers to MSAs with populations less than the median population

  2. 18 years of age is the minimum passenger age to use TNC services such as Uber and Lyft

  3. Urban regions are defined as areas with a density centile score between 75–99. 94% of urban areas in the NHTS fall within this range.

  4. In the 2017 NHTS, 14 MSAs have populations greater than one million residents and have access to heavy rail (Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, Philadelphia, Providence, Riverside San Francisco, San Jose and Washington D.C.).

  5. Second cities are population centers and surrounding communities surrounding major metropolitan areas.


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This research was supported by the US DOT Grant No. 69A3551747111 through Mobility21, a University Transportation Center, with the goal of improving mobility of goods and services. The authors would like thank Carnegie Mellon’s Traffic21 Institute for their support throughout this project. The authors take full responsibility for all errors or opinions expressed herein.

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R Grahn: Literature search and review, study conception and design, analysis and interpretation of results, manuscript preparation. CD Harper: Content planning, interpretation of results, manuscript preparation. C Hendrickson: Study design and conception, interpretation of results. HS Matthews: Interpretation of results. Z Qian: Interpretation of results

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Correspondence to Rick Grahn.

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Grahn, R., Harper, C.D., Hendrickson, C. et al. Socioeconomic and usage characteristics of transportation network company (TNC) riders. Transportation 47, 3047–3067 (2020).

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