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Discussion on: What's the most wasteful software?

redbassett profile image

Uber/Lyft and other Transportation Network Companies (TNCs). Not for the app or infrastructure itself, but the product. They have "disrupted" an industry of taxis and transportation networks by undercutting existing systems and outsourcing the cost of their business to "independent contractors" who are not professionals in that industry.

TNCs have put a lot of money into getting users to buy subsidized rides instead of taking public transit. This has resulted in drops in transit rides, and therefore less funding is allocated for transit. The environmental and societal costs for this massive increase in traffic is much larger than expanding public transit would be. TNCs promise the idea of "ridesharing", where existing drivers can give riders a seat, decreasing traffic, but studies have shown this simply is false, as drivers deadhead (drive without passengers) more than they provide rides, and whole sub-industries have popped up trying to sell or rent cars to people who don't have one but want to start driving for a TNC.

Beyond the environmental impact of all these cars, and the increased traffic from more cars (including time spent in traffic for other drivers), the societal impact has been huge. Increased traffic means an increase in traffic injuries and deaths, as well as the less documented increases in asthma and other conditions caused or worsened by automobile pollution. Decreased transit availability (and buses stuck in traffic) mean that more people take cars when they could have seen health benefits from walking or biking because they feel unsafe on or near roads. More parents drive their children to school because… you guessed it, there's too many cars.

Imagine if we had contributed the shear amount of money VCs have put into just Uber (which still loses BILLIONS of dollars a year) into good quality urban transit, regional rail, and high speed rail across just the US. Imagine serious sidewalks and bike lanes in all cities that made walking, biking, skateboarding, scootering, and even using a wheelchair safer. Imagine if we redesigned cities and towns so that most things can be walked to from a train station instead of multi-lane roads through the heart of downtown.