Shuttles vs. Uber and Lyft: What’s Better for the Environment?

Author: Michelle Russell       

Ride Sharing vs ShuttlesShuttle buses are a staple at many business events. But as more planners are asked to cut back on this expense — as indicated in Convene’s most recent Meetings Market Survey — some have transferred all or a portion of those transportation costs into the hands of attendees who use ride-sharing apps. There are even ride-sharing apps, like Group Carpool, specifically for events.

A recent study by Event Transportation Systems (ETS), which provides ground transportation services for events across North America, examines a different kind of cost associated with transportation: the environmental toll of shuttle buses vs. ride sharing.

As ETS notes in the study, it may seem at first glance that buses are not eco-friendly vehicles, acknowledging that bus “diesel exhaust fumes don’t smell like roses.” But a breakdown of the emissions generated on a per-passenger basis — based on an analysis of EPA and US Department of Energy data for diesel buses, biodiesel buses, and ride sharing — finds that buses produce about 35-percent fewer emissions per passenger across all “occupant capacity utilization.”

In lay terms, that means how much of the vehicle is filled up with passengers. Buses can hold up to 55 passengers, and ride shares can hold up to four — since large-capacity ride sharing comprises a smaller percentage of the ride-share market for special events, it was not part of the data analysis.

Providing that buses are being filled to capacity, the report concludes, they are “the most eco-friendly point-to-point transportation options for events.” That seems to be the major proviso, since, according to ETS, the average overall passenger count is 36 percent of bus capacity.

The main takeaway? Do your best to ensure that your shuttle operators are filling the buses for peak efficiency — from both an economic and ecological standpoint.