Lyft Wants Streets With Fewer Lanes, So More People Will Use Ride-Sharing

More ride sharing means less traffic, the company reasons.

Lyft

If more people use ride-sharing services instead of driving their own cars, traffic will be reduced, according to Lyft. Less traffic means less need for wide city streets with multiple lanes, and the company has an idea of what to do with that extra space. To that end, Lyft teamed with architecture firm Perkins+Will and transportation consultancy Nelson/Nygaard to remodel Los Angeles's Wiltshire Boulevard for a hypothetical future full of autonomous ride sharing. 

The concept, shown to CNN, reduces the street's 10 lanes down to three narrower lanes for cars, and adds dedicated lanes for self-driving buses. Lyft thinks this will incentivize the use of shared autonomous vehicles.

What did designers do with the extra space? Some of it is taken up by wider sidewalks; there's also added green space and bike lanes. It's not too far off from the remodeling of New York City's Times Square, where traffic flow has been reduced to make room for pedestrian plazas and bike lanes.

Indeed, the idea of reclaiming street space for other uses isn't really new. Lyft is just putting a new spin on it by claiming that so many lanes dedicated to cars won't be necessary in a future where autonomous driving makes ride sharing more convenient than owning a car. 

But it's a little early to be taking that as a foregone conclusion. A study published in June found that self-driving cars may not reduce traffic at all. Researchers concluded that the convenience of self-driving cars might actually lead to more trips, and could even create a new kind of potential traffic problem: empty self-driving cars sent out to run errands or pick up passengers. (It's worth noting that most scenarios for autonomous ride sharing don't include multiple passengers in the same car, so rush hours will likely see the same number of cars on the road.)

The time when self-driving cars displace human drivers is also years, if not decades, away, so it's probably too early for cities to begin tearing up streets in anticipation of a utopian future.