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Libertarian Finds Rapid City Short of Life-Saving Ride-Share Services

One of the speakers at last week’s libertarian Freedom Fest in Rapid City notes one of the factors that may slightly squelch our economic development—lack of the ride-sharing services that urban travelers expect:

It’s crazy how quickly we start to take things for granted. I was in Rapid City, South Dakota for a conference last week, and for the first time in recent memory, Uber and Lyft were not readily available. The ensuing struggles that attendees had navigating the small city were a funny example of #FirstWorldProblems. (Nine of us crowding into a minivan that served as the “airport shuttle” was a funny sight, indeed). Yet it was also a poignant reminder of how much we’ve come to rely on the valuable services offered by relatively new ride-sharing technology [Brad Polumbo, “We Just Got Proof That Uber Has Saved Thousands of Lives,” Foundation for Economic Education, 2021.07.26].

Rapid City might be a safer town if it had more ride-sharing services. Polumbo cites a new working paper from two UC Berkeley economists who got their hands on proprietary Uber data and find that ride-sharing reduces drunk driving and other traffic-related deaths:

Uber has reduced alcohol-related traffic fatalities by 6.1 percent, the study finds, which equates to roughly 214 lives in 2019. Similarly, Uber reduced overall traffic deaths by 4 percent, likely by reducing other forms of dangerous driving such as driving while very tired. This equates to 494 lives saved in 2019. (And that’s just Uber: To understand the full life-saving impact of ride-sharing technology, we would have to factor in competitors like Lyft, too) [Polumbo, 2021.07.26].

Even without easy Uber access, Polumbo and his fellow Freedom Festers appear to have escaped Rapid City alive. But Polumbo’s note about Rapid City’s lack of a basic 21st-century amenity must kill local tourism boosters. So, hey, Rapid City promoters: your visitors want more Uber! Work on that!


  1. Porter Lansing 2021-07-27 13:54

    Cory, sir. Is the lack of Uber/Lyft (my family only uses Lyft because of the way Uber treats women) common in all SD towns above 15,000 people?

    That sounds strange because SD white males are always looking for a way to make an extra buck and a way to get out of the house at night.

  2. buckobear 2021-07-27 16:14

    Biggest problem we’ve encountered with Lyft is the inability to arrange a pickup time in advance. It’s great to learn at 4AM that nothing is available for a 4:20 trip to the airport.

  3. buckobear 2021-07-27 16:27

    Additionally, wanna bet they stiffed the shuttle driver ??

  4. jerry 2021-07-27 19:43

    Shuttle drivers are pretty savvy. They get the commitment of 25 bucks from each of the rider(s) and then ask how they will pay for it. They carry a card reader so there is that. Nothing gets unloaded until the dude pays. I think they have been to this rodeo one two many times and get the point across before they pull the gate.

  5. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-07-28 07:14

    I don’t know what “readily available” means, but the Lyft website shows me sample fares around Rapid City, Brookings, and Aberdeen. Maybe Uber and Lyft don’t have enough surge capacity in Rapid for big conventions? Maybe so many tourists come to the Hills with their own vehicles that ride-sharing is too sporadic a gig for lots of drivers to enter the marketplace?

  6. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-07-28 07:20

    Or maybe Rapid City drivers are still cautious about returning to work that would expose them coronavirus…especially “liberty”-minded visitors who brought their convention to South Dakota specifically because our state wouldn’t require them to take pandemic precautions.

  7. cibvet 2021-07-28 10:21

    As long as they are postulating how many lives they save with Lyft and Uber, perhaps they could also toss out some numbers of how many people they have killed with their misinformation about covid.

  8. Donald Pay 2021-07-28 10:38

    Well, this is a complaint you are going to get from big shot people used to big city services. It’s much ado about nothing.

    People in Rapid City don’t travel much by a taxi service. Rapid City has a bus service, a great bike path, and is small enough that you can walk most places. The only time I used taxis was to go to the airport. I used them twice in 12 years. In Rapid City, most people don’t go to the airport, and if you do, you have someone drop you off or you park there. Most of the visitor travel is done by auto, not airlines, so there is no need for a ride service. Hotel shuttle service is the mode of travel for travelers without cars. If you don’t like it, don’t travel to Rapid City.

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