Shave a few dollars off your taxi fare and meet new people, all while helping to save the environment. These are the ostensible benefits of ride sharing services, as promised by the likes of GrabHitch and GrabShare. But recent research has us stopping in our tracks and wondering if such services truly do contribute to a greener environment, because it seems like carbon footprint could be going up because of them.

But first, how exactly do these types of ride sharing services work?

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An advertisement for GrabHitch advertising the service as being cheaper and better for the environment. Photo: Grab
  • GrabHitch: On the way to a destination, a driver is free to pick up another customer who wishes to head in the same direction as the customer already on board.
  • GrabShare: Customers can share a ride with someone else heading to the same destination at the same time.

In either case, the idea is to allow more people in a car at a time, so that the carbon footprint per person for each journey is reduced. Sounds like it’s bound to work, right? Well, that’s assuming that the customer who hitches or shares a taxi ride is doing so in place of driving their own vehicle.

According to US-based study on ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft, who boast similar ride sharing services (UberPool and Lyft Line), these marketing claims are appealing to customers who actually would have otherwise used public transport, cycled, walked, or even not made the trip at all. All of those modes of transport would have been better for the environment. In short, these services are helping to raise carbon footprint, not reduce it.

Nonetheless, this research was conducted in the US, and we can’t say the same for Singapore with certainty. Perhaps locals use Grab as a substitute for pricier cab companies such as, for instance, ComfortDelGro  and would’ve taken a car to their destination either way.

Still, with the use of (and number of) ride hailing apps on the rise, studies should be conducted in Singapore as well to find out if these services are exacerbating the problem of pollution. Perhaps part of the 1 billion dollars of funding Grab recently raised can be funnelled towards proving the veracity of its claims.

Of course, time is money, and easy commute ought to be accessible to every Singaporean. More can be done as well to improve the efficiency of public transport. We can’t be calling ourselves a “Green City” with such pride, after all, if our roads are lined with more cars than ever.


Do you have proof that ride-sharing is better for the environment in Singapore? Tell us at hello@upcode.media!

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