Matthew Stoudt has always been a new-car kind of guy, but when the lease on his BMW 3 Series was coming to an end in 2014, he started doing some math. He had just sold his company, so he no longer needed to commute to an office. Even though he lived in Los Angeles, a traditionally car-centric city, the calculations in his Excel spreadsheet told him he might be able to ditch his car in favor of ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft and actually save some money.
His Bimmer returned, Stoudt started taking Uber and Lyft everywhere. Within a week, he was hooked. "I loved the freedom of it," he said. "Not having to worry about going to get gas, not having to worry about parking, not having to worry about having a cocktail at night. So it really became freedom for me, being able to call up my fleet of drivers anytime that I wanted."
Stoudt admits it wasn't easy to give up his car, and for many other car-loving Americans, driving is an ingrained part of the culture. Vehicle ownership per person peaked in 2006 at 0.786 then dipped during the recession, but it has steadily returned to nearly its peak, according to a report by University of Michigan researcher Michael Sivak. But alternative transportation services like Uber and Lyft are trying to change that philosophy of personal car ownership.
According to a Pew Research Center study in fall 2018, 36 percent of U.S. adults said they had used a ride-hailing service such as Uber or Lyft, up from 15 percent of Americans just three years before. But like most trends borne of coastal environs, those who ride-hail tend to be younger, wealthier, and better educated, according to Pew data.
As someone who's driven for Uber and Lyft since the early days, it's been amazing for me to see the meteoric rise firsthand.