UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Equity of access to Uber's wheelchair accessible service Hassanpour, Amir; Bigazzi, Alexander York; MacKenzie, Don


Ridesourcing service providers have expanded rapidly in recent years, but accessibility for people with disabilities is an ongoing issue. UberWAV was launched in September 2015, providing wheelchair accessible vehicles equipped with a rear-entry ramp, winch, and restraints for riders who travel with a wheeled mobility aid. The objectives of this study were 1) to assess the equity performance of UberWAV by itself and in comparison to UberX by investigating the temporal and spatial distributions of the availability and accessibility of each service, and 2) to compare the availability, wait time, and price of UberWAV in Portland to the requirements in the city code. Demand-weighted probability of availability (WPA) and demand-weighted estimated time of arrival (WETA) were calculated for each service using Application Programming Interface (API) data extracted at 71 gridded locations in Portland, Oregon in 2018 and U.S. National Household Travel Survey data. WPA and WETA were then regressed over sociodemographic variables, controlling for spatial correlation, to investigate systematic patterns in access by neighborhood. Results indicate large disparities in availability between the WAV and standard Uber services. WPA of UberX was consistently over 99%, while WPA for UberWAV averaged 62% with substantial fluctuations by time of day. Average WETA for UberWAV was 18.8 min, 4.5 times higher than for UberX, and again had greater temporal variability. UberWAV met the service requirements in the Portland city code for availability and wait time under 30 min just 58% of the time (demand-weighted). While UberWAV access was substantially poorer than for UberX, the access was not inequitably distributed with regard to neighborhood income or racial composition. UberWAV was more accessible in areas where a higher percentage of people with ambulatory disabilities lived. A larger fleet of UberWAV vehicles would be needed, particularly through the middle of the day, if Uber is to provide equal access for people using a wheelchair and to meet the requirements in the Portland city code.

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