International Choice Modelling Conference, International Choice Modelling Conference 2017

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What Makes Travelers Use Uber: Exploring the Latent Constructs behind the Use of On-Demand Ride Services in California
Farzad Alemi, Giovanni Circella, Susan Handy, Patricia Mokhtarian

Last modified: 28 March 2017


Emerging transportation technologies and shared-mobility services are quickly changing the way individuals travel, in particular in large urban areas. Shared-mobility services expand the set of transportation alternatives available for a trip, allow for more flexibility in travel schedules, and provide access to transportation without the costs of auto ownership. Among the most controversial and rapidly growing shared-mobility services are on-demand ride services (also known as transportation network companies, or TNCs, or ride-sourcing) such as Uber and Lyft. The rapid growth in the use of on-demand ride services is expected to affect travel demand and vehicle ownership, even if their effects are not clear yet. On-demand ride services may contribute to reducing car ownership by providing an alternative to owning a car, reduce driving by offering flexible travel alternatives, and/or increase the use of public transit e.g. through providing first/last mile access to transit stations, or providing a ride home outside the hours of operation of transit, or when riding transit is perceived as unsafe or unpleasant.

Understanding the factors affecting the adoption and frequency of use of on-demand rides services is not easy due to the lack of comprehensive data, the continuously evolving characteristics of these services, and the multifaceted impacts they these services may have on other components of travel behavior. To date, information about the adoption rate, frequency of use and the potential effects of the adoption of these services on the use of other travel modes and on vehicle ownership is still very limited. This paper investigates the factors affecting the adoption of on-demand ride services among both millennials, i.e. young adults 18 to 34 years old, and the members of the previous Generation X, i.e. middle-aged adults between 35 and 50 years old, in California. We analyze the circumstances under which individuals are more likely to use on-demand ride services, and the travel patterns and behaviors associated with using these services, using the California Millennials Dataset, a comprehensive dataset collected in fall 2015. A detailed online survey was designed as part of the project, and administered to a sample of more than 2400 residents of California. We employed a quota sampling process to ensure that enough respondents from both age groups were sampled in each combination of geographic region of California and neighborhood type where the respondents live, and controlled for demographic targets of the sample. This survey collected an unprecedented amount of information on many dimensions of interest to study new transportation trends and the adoption of emerging technological services, including personal attitudes and preferences, lifestyles, adoption of online social media and information and communication technology (ICT), residential location, living arrangements, commuting and other travel-related patterns, auto ownership, awareness, adoption and frequency of use of the most common shared mobility services (including car-sharing, bike-sharing, dynamic ridesharing and on-demand ride services such as Uber or Lyft), propensity to purchase and use a private vehicles vs. use other means of travel, major life events from the past three years, political ideas and sociodemographic traits of Millennials and members of the preceding Generation X who live in different neighborhood types (including urban, suburban, and rural) and geographic regions of California. For additional details on the survey content and data collection efforts for this project, see Circella et al. (2016). The preliminary result of analysis revealed that that age, residential location, presence of children in the household, income, employment and student status, education level, propensity to use new technologies and social media, frequency of long distance travels (in particular, air travel), among others, are significant predictors of the adoption of on-demand ride services (Alemi et al., paper submitted to Transportation Research Board). Moreover, we found that individuals who use on-demand ride services tend to reduce their use of private vehicles and report a higher propensity to sell (or replace) their current vehicle.

In this paper, we employ a latent class choice model to better understand the behavioral and attitudinal factors affecting the adoption of these services, and endogenously group individuals based on the characteristics of their lifestyles and some measure of their attitudes. We controls for the impact of numerous explanatory variables and for their different impacts on the adoption of these services among the various groups that are identified. The integration of latent lifestyle’s constructs provides a behavioral rationale to investigate the taste heterogeneity observed in these choice processes. The study provides useful insights into the relationships among the adoption of new on-demand ride services and individual and household characteristics, accessibility and availability of different travel modes, the awareness, familiarity and use of other technology-enabled transportation services, the characteristics of the residential neighborhoods, and households’ auto ownership. Further, it allows to explore the different patterns in the adoption of new technologies among different segment of the population, and the relative characteristics of these segments, while controlling for individuals taste variation, accounting, for example, for the emerging behaviors among the stereotypical “urbanite” millennials (who certainly are a common presence in large urban areas such as San Francisco and Los Angeles) and older peers who have similar behaviors vs. other groups, e.g. members of more traditional households, who are less likely to use new transportation services and have more conventional travel patterns.



Circella, Giovanni, Lew Fulton, Farzad Alemi, Rosaria M. Berliner, Kate Tiedeman, Patricia L. Mokhtarian, and Susan Handy. 2016. "What Affects Millennials’ Mobility? PART I: Investigating the Environmental Concerns, Lifestyles, Mobility-Related Attitudes and Adoption of Technology of Young Adults in California.” Project Report, National Center for Sustainable Transportation, May 2016. Available at (Last accessed on September 30, 2016).

Alemi, Farzad, Giovanni Circella, Susan L. Handy, Patricia Mokhtarian (under review), What Influences Travelers to Use Uber? Exploring the Factors Affecting the Adoption of On-Demand Ride Services. Submitted to the 2017 Transportation Research Board (TRB) Annual Meeting (paper available from the authors on request).

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