This is the second part of the revised comments that I sent into the California Public Utilities Commission hearings on ridessharing. Like my most recent post, it is a summary of my ideas on the subject and contains links to other posts of mine.
In the photo I make up for past omissions by finally giving Sidecar drivers their due.
Lyft, Sidecar, Tickengo and Uberx are not Ridesharing Services
As for a detailed analysis on this subject, I don’t think I can do better than refer you to a few of my own blog posts on The Phantom Cab Driver Phites Back. For an analysis of marketing by double-talk see:
100,000 Uninsured Rides and Counting: If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, will it bark if you call it a dog?
For a look at further perversions of the English tongue, as well as a critique of the idea that a driver isn’t a professional until he or she makes more than $8,776 a year, see:
It does appear that Tickengo belongs in a different category than Lyft and Sidecar. However, as far as I can tell it’s not a nonprofit, and they still advertise that their drivers will make money. For a look at the difference between Tickengo and a true ridesharing service like Avego, let’s look at the websites:
You have to go to the driver’s page on their website to find it, but Tickengo’s drivers do get paid.
Unlike the fake rideshares, Avego’s goal is to have “fewer cars on the road” not more.
Then to compare them both to massively bogus “ridesharing” services, see:
But for the best evidence that Lyft et al are not ridesharing services, why not look in the horse’s mouth? Journalist Justine Sherrock Life Behind the Wheel in the New Rideshare Economy writes:
“When a driver posed a question about taxes, Lyft directed the poster to a fellow driver who is also a tax accountant. ‘Calling a voluntary payment for service received a ‘donation’ does not affect whether it’s taxable unless the receiver is a tax-exempt organization,’ she posted. ‘So all of your Lyft income is taxable since you are not a tax-exempt organization. Hope this helps guys. This is considered self employment income, not a hobby.’”
Later in the article Sharrock says:
“Toward the end of my shift, I was about to sign out when I figured I may as well accept one last request for my drive home across the city. But then I remembered that there was no way for me to tell if someone was going in my direction or, say, to the airport.”
To refer to hosting a Lyft ride as carpooling is most assuredly wrong, according to any known definition of the word….”
“I later confronted Zimmer (John Zimmer CEO of Lyft) about this. ‘Ridesharing is where we are heading. Right now we are at page one of a 100-page book,” he says. “You have to build up a base service that is reliable, be careful about the math of the supply and demand, and get people used to riding with each other, and then add incidental trips. Without that peer-to-peer base, real-time ridesharing has no chance.’”
In sum, Lyft, Sidecar and the rest all fail both true ridesharing tests: their drivers don’t exclusively pick up riders that are going in the same direction as they are; and both the companies and their drivers work for money.
Congestion and Pollution
John Zimmer’s fantasy of having one hundred thousand vehicles transporting passengers with his mustached cars may not be possible, but it appears to be a goal he’s striving toward. San Francisco is already over-saturated with bogus taxis, and both Lyft and Sidecar are still putting them out at a frenetic rate.
Dr. Dan Hara of Hara Associates (2) has estimated that San Francisco needs 800 more cab to handle the business. However, Lyft and Sidecar have already put somewhere between 2,000 to 2,500 illegal taxis on the street. According to classic deregulation theory, this would mean that a balance between the need for cabs and the number of cabs (legal and otherwise) available has not been reached.
But classic theory assumes that the owners of the vehicles would have to purchase the cars, maintain and pay for insurance along with the other expenses that it takes to run and work a cab. Lyft and Sidecar don’t have most of those costs, so they can keep on increasing their fleets without the same natural balance that deregulation theory projects. It’s sort of like a Ponzi scheme where individual drivers may make less but the overall number of rides is more so Zimmer, Sunil Paul (CEO of Sidecar) and their investors make more money. Easy enough to do in a down economy with a lot of people willing to work part time.
What evidence do I have for this?
1. According to most drivers I've talked with as well as my own experience, the taxicab business in San Francisco is down by at least twenty-five percent. Our taxi customers are being stolen by Uber, Lyft, Sidecar and the host of other illegal vehicles.
2. This means that the fake rideshares, rather than fulfilling the need of picking up new customers as they claim to be, are picking up business that would be picked up by taxis anyway.
- This is especially true at SFO, where Lyft justifies its right to go by claiming that there aren’t enough taxis when a couple of hundred of them are waiting for flights to arrive almost every hour of every day.
3. Sidecar has a rule that a driver only has 20 seconds to respond to a dispatch or the hail will be given out to the five next closest cars. If there were a balance between the number of Sidecars and the number of orders, there wouldn’t be five empty cars hanging around for a race.
4. Both Lyft and Sidecar are sending their drivers to the same areas that are already overpopulated with taxis and away from the neighborhoods that cabs currently underserve. Justine Sharrock:
“We were given strategies on how to maximize our ‘Lyft Loot,’ i.e., make more money, by driving during peak hours and waiting in optimal locations. We were shown a map of the city with Outer and Inner Richmond areas labeled as ‘No,’ and downtown, SOMA and the Marina as ‘Yes.’ In other words, follow the tech money. In the mornings, being closer to the edges of town works as well, since people take Lyft to work.
Hunters Point and the Bayview, low-income minority communities, didn’t even make it onto the map. Since the app connects drivers with rides nearest them, Lyft is essentially not available for people in those communities.”
5. I can add the anecdotal experiences of myself and numerous other drivers who have frequently turned up on dispatched orders only to find that a Lyft or a Sidecar has been hailed as well. I’ve also seen Lyft or Sidecar drivers picking up passengers in places like Market Street that I would have gotten on a flag if the fake rideshares hadn’t been there.
What you have then is a duplication or triplication of effort that is already seriously congesting and polluting San Francisco, the negative effect of which will increase geometrically if the CPUC shows the bad judgment to legalize these bogus ridesharing services.
BTW - Zimmer's fantasy doesn't really work on any level. If he did put his 100,000 faux taxis on the street, the real taxi business would cease to exist. All that would be left would be "community drivers." What would happen if a person needed to go to a hospital at 4 am? Where would he or she find the "community driver" who was going to the same hospital at the same time?