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It’s Harder to Get an Uber or Lyft if You’re Black, Study Says

2 minute read

People in Boston with African-American-sounding names were twice as likely to have their rides cancelled than those with white-sounding names, and black people in Seattle had significantly longer wait times for UberX cars than white passengers, according to a new study published Monday .

Researchers pulled data from more than 1,400 field tests conducted using mostly Uber and Lyft, but also traditional taxi services. The findings in Boston and Seattle showed evidence of discrimination that manifested in either longer waits or a higher likelihood for cancellation.

In Seattle, African-American UberX users on average waited 5 minutes and 15 seconds for pick-ups — roughly 30% longer than white riders, who waited 4 minutes on average. Lyft users did not experience a significant difference during the experiment.

When the research assistants switched between using white-sounding and African-American-sounding names, they did not find a significant increase in their wait times. But the overall rates at which drivers cancelled the ride after it was assigned to them was more than one in 10 for riders with black-sounding names, roughly double than for riders with white-sounding names.

In statements, both Uber and Lyft said their companies do not tolerate discrimination, and said the companies are looking to change discrimination that persisted in car transportation services long before the disrupting arrival of the newer apps.

“Ridesharing apps are changing a transportation status quo that has been unequal for generations, making it easier and more affordable for people to get around—no matter who they are or where they live. Discrimination has no place in society, and no place on Uber,” said Uber’s head of North American operations, Rachel Holt. “We believe Uber is helping reduce transportation inequities across the board, but studies like this one are helpful in thinking about how we can do even more.”

“Because of Lyft, people living in underserved areas — which taxis have historically neglected — are now able to access convenient, affordable rides,” Lyft spokesperson Adrian Durbin said. “And we provide this service while maintaining an inclusive and welcoming community, and do not tolerate any form of discrimination.”

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Write to Julia Zorthian at julia.zorthian@time.com