A lengthy FiveThirtyEight article today by Nate Silver and Reuben Fischer-Baum crunches some data to arrive at two major insights: First, New Yorkers use Uber much like they use taxis, and second, for-hire cars are used primarily by well-off New Yorkers to supplement transit in close-in neighborhoods, not to replace car ownership in the outer boroughs.
The best part of the piece is actually a graphic that breaks down NYC’s transportation tribes, segmented by income and transit access. One of these groups didn’t get much attention in the article. See that red box? Here’s what Silver and Fischer-Baum say about that:
Low income, poor public transit access: In census tracts with no nearby subway line, 66 percent of households have access to a private vehicle. An exception among these neighborhoods, however, is those where incomes are below $35,000 per year: Car ownership remains low there. Given the high cost of living in New York, a $35,000 income is the equivalent of about $20,000 for an average American household, making even a clunker a stretch to afford. Families like these have no great choices.
This isn’t a small population. Of the 750,000 New Yorkers who commute more than an hour each way, two-thirds make less than $35,000 a year, according to a 2010 Pratt Center analysis. For comparison, only six percent of those hour-plus commuters made more than $75,000 annually. People of color carry the heaviest burden: Pratt’s numbers show that on average, black New Yorkers face commutes that are 25 percent longer than white New Yorkers. For Hispanics, commute times average 12 percent longer than for whites.