By: Adylbek Abdykalikov, USC, IPPAM 2020
Dr. Anne Brown, Assistant Professor of the School of Planning, Public Policy and Management at the University of Oregon, has been selected to receive the CUTC Charley V. Wootan Memorial Award for her outstanding UCLA Doctoral Dissertation “Ridehail Revolution: Ridehail Travel and Equity in Los Angeles. “I am honored to receive the Charley V. Wootan Memorial Award,” said Dr. Brown, “and am especially grateful to the people whose advice and feedback made this research possible.”
Dr. Brown’s groundbreaking research is a first-of-its-kind analysis of well-known ridehail companies such as Uber and Lyft in terms of the access and equity of their services. Her dissertation aimed to answer three questions about ridehail access and equity in Los Angeles. First, what explains the geographical distribution of ridehail trips across neighborhoods? Second, what explains ridehail use by individuals? And third, is there evidence of racial or gender discrimination on ridehail and taxi services?
“Professor Brown filed the most remarkable and consequential dissertation that I have ever supervised,” said Dr. Brian Taylor, Dr. Brown’s advisor, Professor of Urban Planning; Director, Institute of Transportation Studies, UCLA. “The rise of transportation network companies, like Lyft and Uber, raises important questions about the future of auto-mobility, as well as their effects on car ownership and travel, metropolitan form, taxis and public transit, and the fate of poor, non-white, and disabled travelers.”
Conducting the nation’s first-ever analysis of the Lyft trip-level data from more than 6.3 million trips taken in Los Angeles in 2016, and the first audit study of Lyft, Uber, and taxi services, based on more than 1,700 rides, Dr. Brown has provided incredibly valuable, though surprising, findings.
In her research, Dr. Brown finds that discrimination in the taxi industry results in higher cancellation rates and longer wait times for black riders. Black riders were 73 percent more likely than white riders to have a taxi trip cancelled and waited between 6 and 15 minutes longer. By contrast, ridehail services nearly eliminate the racial-ethnic differences in service quality.
Dr. Brown also finds that there is no evidence that Los Angeles neighborhoods are excluded from the Lyft service based on the characteristics of their residents. Her research also shows strong association between Lyft use and lower rates of vehicle ownership in neighborhoods. There were also associations found with racial composition of a neighborhood. In predominantly Asian and Hispanic neighborhoods, for example, Lyft use was lower than average. Dr. Brown suggests that this can be explained by either the existence of informal, alternative carpool services or barriers residents face to ridehail services, such as lower smartphone, data plan, or banking access.
Dr. Brown’s research has clear policy implications for both the operators of ridehail companies, who can attempt to reduce discrimination against riders, and public officials, who must determine how to better regulate discriminatory practices in the taxi industry.
Dr. Brown’s research has been extensively covered in media and has already received high recognition by being awarded the Barclay Gibbs Jones Award for best dissertation in planning by the Association of Collegiate Schools in Planning.
“Professor Brown is a rising star in transportation policy and planning,” said Taylor. “This astonishing level of scholarly productivity is the result of four qualities: (1) an infectious, enthusiasm for research, and in particular questions of urban and transportation equity; (2) a razor-sharp mind and a hunger to keep learning, (3) exceptional focus, maturity, and discipline; and (4) a relentlessly upbeat and charming demeanor that had our faculty and graduate students elbowing one another for the chance to work with her. To sum, Anne Brown is without question a future academic star in transportation policy and planning.”
The CUTC Charley V. Wootan Memorial Award will be presented to Dr. Brown at the CUTC Annual Awards Banquet on January 12, 2019, in Washington D. C. Not surprisingly, Dr. Brown was also voted Pacific Southwest Transportation University Transportation Student of the Year, and she will receive that award at the banquet as well.
About the author:
Adylbek Abdykalikov is a graduate student of International Public Policy and Management Program at USC Price. He has a working experience in different positions at the Ministries of Transport and Communication and Investment and Development of Kazakhstan. He was in charge of Transportation and Civil Aviation policy development and implementation.