Study finds racial disparities in Uber, Lyft wait times

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Study finds racial disparities in Uber wait times. (KTRK)

Ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft are the new way to get around, but new research shows how long you wait for a ride could depend on your race.

"There is still discrimination happening," said Don MacKenzie, a University of Washington professor of transportation engineering.

MacKenzie's team sent black and white students onto Seattle streets to request an Uber or Lyft.

Black travelers had to wait 20 percent longer to get a trip accepted, and 30 percent longer for the car to show up.

In Boston, researchers sent a single student out with two Uber profiles, so they could compare the experiences of Aisha to Allison and Rasheed to Todd.

"When the name that they used was a stereotypically African-American name, they were much more likely to have the trip accepted and then canceled," MacKenzie said.

Nicole Riley has been a fan of Uber.

"I've been cheerleading for them, but my name is Nicole Riley," she said. "So my name might not be one that they automatically think is African-American."

Former driver Yosef Tsehay has lots of complaints with Uber, but, he said, "I didn't see any discrimination."

Professor MacKenzie suggests ride hailing companies periodically audit their drivers' behavior and cancellations, and consider switching to a system where no names are used.

MacKenzie says there's no evidence the companies themselves discriminate.

"These are the actions of individual drivers using those platforms, and we have no reason to think it's every driver," MacKenzie said.

In a statement, Uber said the company is helping reduce transportation inequities and added that studies like this are "helpful in thinking about how it can do even more."

Lyft says it does not tolerate any form of discrimination.
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