Thursday, June 18, 2015

SFMTA Nixes Uber/Lyft Red Lane Use

Taxi and TNC drivers packed room 400 at City Hall to give their opinions on the Vision Zero plan for a Safer Market Street. The goal of the plan is "to eliminate all traffic fatalities by 2024".

Uber drivers were there to demand access to the red transit lanes and the cab drivers came to stop this from happening.

However, early signs indicated that the members of SFMTA Board were predisposed in our favor. Director Malcolm Heinicke appeared to support taxicabs on another issue and Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin had signed off on a presentation to the CPUC calling for stricter regulation of TNCs. Perhaps most important, the SF Bicycle Coalition was in favor of the plan – they rarely lose political battles in this town.


One of the first speakers on the topic surprisingly said that Lyft was backing Vision Zero and then proceeded to attack Uber for being the only group not to go along with the plan. She gave us a lesson in how to delete the Uber app from a cell phone. This met with applause.

By then the outcome had become so clear that three Uber types sitting behind me left and apparently called Uber who sent a manager down to say that Uber actually supported the plan – as long as taxis were also forbidden use of the transit lanes.

Among the taxi speakers were Rua Graphis, Barry Korengold and Mark Gruberg of the San Francisco Taxi Workers Alliance and cab driver/videographer John Han.

Instead of giving a blow by blow, I think I'll simply summarize some of the drivers' comments and throw in a few of my own,

Let's start with a conundrum:

San Francisco has become the 2nd most congested city in the country at the same time as fewer people in the city are driving cars.

This wouldn't make sense unless you understand how many vehicles Uber, Lyft and other TNCs are putting on the street. According to a study made by Uber themselves, they have 11,000 current drivers in San Francisco who work an average of about 30 hours per week. The average car owner drives only 5 or 10 hours per week.

Mark Gruberg said that these figures were out of date because Uber has doubled the number of their fake taxis so that there currently are as many as 25,000 Ubers and 10,000 Lyfts regularly driving. In addition, Gruberg found ads online for Uber and Lyft insignias to put in cars aimed at non TNC drivers who want to illegally take fares or use the red lanes.

In an article in the San Francisco Examiner, a spokesman for Who's Driving You? said,

"There are 1,500 licensed Yellow taxis in New York City ... Uber has replicated New York's entire taxi fleet and placed it on San Francisco's streets.” San Francisco  has 1/10th the population density of New York.

Whatever the exact figures, the number of TNCs in the city are enough to turn afternoon commutes into gridlock.

During my comments I argued that, if the city allowed the TNCs to use the red lanes, the sheer numbers of these vehicles would destroy the Vision Zero project by themselves. The buses wouldn't be able to move.

By comparison there are only about 2,000 license taxicabs in San Francisco and their current use has demonstrated that taxis are not blocking traffic in red lanes.

Our comments apparently proved compelling to Director Heinicke and the other members of the Board who refused to either allow TNCs use of the red lanes or forbid taxis to do so. Heinicke said that allowing the faux taxis to use the lanes would put thousands more cars on Market. He also said that he had no idea how he would have regulated their use if this had been allowed.

Next: Arguments not quite articulated.

1 comment:

  1. My driving coach from Port Macquarie Driving School drove for 20 minutes in a residential area taking me on the streets. She even told me that I'm doing very well and that made me feel good.

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