San FranciscoTech

Have We Hit Peak Uber/Lyft?

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The hardest part of driving a cab in San Francisco is dealing with all the Uber/Lyft cars clogging the streets.  I’m willing to venture at least ninety percent of these freshly minted drivers don’t know what the hell they’re doing.  They double-park with reckless abandon, jamming up arterial thoroughfares and high traffic streets like Polk, Valencia and Castro.  They rely on navigation to get around, which means they’re staring at their phones when they should be watching the road.  They turn left off Market, take rights from left lanes and flip U-turns wherever they feel the need.  They infringe on taxi lanes and stands.  And when you try to correct them, they become violent.

At the front of almost any traffic clusterfuck is an Uber/Lyft car.  It doesn’t matter what time of day or which part of the city, if there’s a backup of cars, chances are, an Uber/Lyft driver is to blame.

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Willie Brown recently brought up the proliferation of Uber/Lyft cars in his column as he related a conversation with Dianne Feinstein:

“Feinstein brought up all the “ride-share” services from buses to cars that have flooded the city, all without much of anything in the way of rules or regulations.  She’s seen the numbers showing there are 4,000 to 6,000 ride-share cars operating in San Francisco, most of which seem to be tooling around in the core of the city.

It’s clear that City Hall is not paying attention to what’s happening on the streets.  It doesn’t even seem to care.  There are no attempts at better traffic control, no crackdowns on double-parked service cars dropping off and picking up fares.”

Remember when Lyft and Uber kept telling us they were helping take cars off the road?  That was one of their selling points.  Along with safetyreliability and all the other claims we now know are bullshit.  In the year that I’ve been driving the streets of San Francisco, I’ve seen traffic get worse each month.  In fact, the Bay Area now has the second worst traffic in the country.

To further solidify this correlation, Uber just announced they have 20,000 active “partners” in the Bay Area.  And while a huge majority of Uber drivers also run the Lyft app, there are plenty of Lyft drivers who don’t drive for Uber, which jacks up the number of private vehicles for hire in the region.

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Compare those figures with the 1900 taxi medallions issued by the SFMTA.  Which, despite all the gross misinformation about the medallion system, simply means there can only be 1900 cabs in service at any given time.

Sometimes it seems like every four-door sedan on the road has a U placard in their window or a glowing pink mustache on their dashboard.  Or both.  And yet, Uber still emails me every day, reminding me of their bonuses for referring new drivers.  Lyft continues to recruit drivers as well, including a recent campaign that offered a thousand dollars to existing drivers and their friends who signed up to drive.  As you can imagine, it set off a feeding frenzy that comically blew up in everybody’s face.

Since Uber and Lyft seem committed to flooding the city’s streets with even more untrained and underinsured drivers to satisfy San Franciscans unquenchable need for frictionless transportation, you can’t help but ponder the unforeseen consequences.  Beyond the traffic jams. Beyond the gridlock.  Beyond the pyramid schemes.  Beyond the tragedy of the commons.

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[All photos were snatched off Twitter or Facebook or some other internet hole.]

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Kelly Dessaint - Will Drive for Food

Kelly Dessaint - Will Drive for Food

Former Uber/Lyft driver turned taxi driver... In my real life, I'm the publisher of the personal narrative zine Piltdownlad, founder of Phony Lid Books and author of the novel A Masque of Infamy and the forthcoming memoir No Fun: How Punk Rock Saved My Life.

10 Comments

  1. Josh Goldberger
    April 22, 2015 at 11:18 am

    “In the year that I’ve been driving the streets of San Francisco” … your stripes are showing buddy. Construction (new development and infrastructure improvements), which, having increased significantly over the last 12 months, has more than any other factor wreaked havoc on many/most of the city’s main arteries. Having been personally subjected to the wrath of many a homicidal cab driver over the past 12 years living inside the city of SF, (as a passenger, pedestrian and cyclist), Uber and Lyft are the lesser of many evils. As far as the taxi medallions go, the limit has been part of the problem. Before ride-share services came along, getting a cab in this town was a major pain in the ass. And depending on your destination or departure point, potentially an impossibility. Also, while it may be getting worse (duh, more people) traffic has been pretty horrible in the Bay Area forever, not just since the advent of ride-sharing. It’s still not as bad as that from whence you came…

    • April 23, 2015 at 1:09 pm

      My stripes? I wear my strips on my shoulder, so how could they NOT be showing? This is a 700 word column. How, pray tell, could I possibly provide a detailed analysis of Bay Area traffic in 700 words? And if I did, how many people do you think would read it? I am bringing up one aspect of the problem: NEW UNTRAINED UBER/LYFT DRIVERS, which, argue with me all you want, don’t know how to drive in the city. I log over 40 hours a week on the streets of San Francisco as a night taxi driver and I can assure you all these other traffic snafus you mention are not as prevalent at night when I’m driving. But the FRESHLY MINTED Uber/Lyft cars are out there, fucking up the flow of traffic.

      I apologize for the CAPS, but you seem to miss the crux of this column in your rush to show outrage. As a former Uber/Lyft driver I have been championing their cause for almost a year. My problem is with the companies themselves, Uber and Lyft, which, and I know you’ll want to argue this point, are WORSE than all the taxi companies, MUNI and the SFMTA combined. Is that just my opinion, or did I not just spend a year dealing with them as a driver and muckraker? Don’t be so quick to join the confederacy of dunces…

      • Josh Goldberger
        April 23, 2015 at 1:18 pm

        Ignatius! I don’t want to argue, I just don’t agree with the premise.

  2. April 22, 2015 at 1:50 pm

    Kelly well written but no doubt I felt your wrath and disdain for the ride share economy. Josh made some great points. Throw in cyclists and jump out in your face pedestrians (check out the Caltrain) station at 4th and Townsend, the Mission and the Marina, the Embarcadero and Pier 39. The number of corporate events that shut whole streets down for a week at a time. The running events. Not to mention the bus driving mob that will blow their horns at a drop of a dime. It can make for some tense moments for sure.

    Additionally there are the food delivery services Muncery, SpoonRocket and Caviar, Postmates, UPS and Fedex, Sysco food trucks, general delivery for restaurants. beer trucks, beverage trucks. huge mega buses for corporations as they haul their technologists around. Oh then there are the tourists and corporate outsiders that take up in the hotels. I don’t believe their numbers are taken into account along with the 789,000 that call San Francisco home.

    But I am afraid the ride share economy is here to stay and it does give others an opportunity to make a reasonable living. And speaking of traffic what percentage of taxi drivers and Uber and Lyft drivers call San Francisco home maybe 10% if they live in the mission or Bayview or live 12 at a time like a lot of hackers do in SF.

    So Kelly I do believe perception is reality, but there are often more realities working at a time in our World and yours as well as mine are a few of them.

    And besides don’t you really wish you had thought of this first.

    Cheers!

    PS
    And for my money if we really should bitch. Let’s bitch about the defective rods that are snapping like frogs croaking at night on the “new” Bay Bridge.

  3. Joe Workenstif
    April 23, 2015 at 12:51 am

    i love Broke As Stuart. But as a fellow broke-ass worker, I need my uber job to pay rent. [pause for laugh ability of paying rent in SF]. Like any exploitative employer, I’m not defending them.

    But, since this poorly written article is clearly not journalism, can a reader enlighten me via the comments section, as to what the larger purpose of a hit piece like this is?

    Are cab unions mad because rideshare drivers have circumvented a history of corruption regarding taxi medallions?

    I envy the fact that real cavies have a union in SF, and assume there are comparatively better wages and benefits than Lyft and Uber. You can be sure though that anyone driving those cars is barely scratching by and hates traffic as much as anyone. How is traffic being blamed on rideshare drivers? I still blame Muni for that one. Your fellow rideshare taxis definitely don’t have the privilege of expected terrible discourteous and dangerous driving that traditional taxis are famous for worldwide. Additionally, aside from places like San Francisco, where riding Uber is a status symbol for monied douchebags, SF cabs are gross, and a ripoff. Either the company or the driver must be to blame for that, but people are voting with their dollars on that one. Ad the convenience of the app, and there is literally no real competition.

    Here’s some useful input to add to the discussion– rideshare employees are a huge exploited workforce of non-unionized drivers that need to be organized (by the taxi unions if they have a legit union–word is they do not). Our exploitability due to a lack of a union undermines wages and benefits for career cabbies, but it also means that 25% of every fare riders pay goes to big bad corporate Uber, in addition to a flat fee of $4 from each rider, an additional fee to drivers for use of the rideshare app, and a fee for Uber Insurance. As most are aware, Uber insurance does not pay out to drivers or riders. Google some horror stories if you haven’t already heard them. Add to that the cost of gas, registration, personal insurance, and vehicle maintenance, and it should be obvious that animosity should be directed at targets other than exploited drivers.

    To end a long rant, you bring the union, I’ll bring the febreez, and we’ll all get there in on piece.

    • April 23, 2015 at 12:45 pm

      I have written extensively about the rights of TNC drivers and am probably one of their biggest advocates. This is not a hit piece but a commentary on the influx of untrained drivers flooding the city streets. That’s all. Uber and Lyft should be training drivers, providing them with adequate insurance (that doesn’t include a deductible), allowing and encouraging tips and revamping the rating system. FOR STARTERS. You can read all the gory details of my journey from Lyft driver, to Uber/Lyft driver to taxi driver here: https://idrivesf.wordpress.com

  4. […] My latest column on Broke-Ass Stuart: […]

  5. Don Anderson
    April 23, 2015 at 7:27 am

    Thanks for another great post. Keep it up!

    I can’t help but notice that Willie Brown speaks in all caps. Not at all surprising.

  6. May 6, 2015 at 1:14 pm

    Apparently, I’m not the only one who’s noticed the influx of Uber/Lyft cars clogging up the streets of San Francisco. This is what you call vindication: http://blog.sfgate.com/stew/2015/05/06/the-top-15-sf-gate-readers-traffic-jam-pet-peeves/#photo-633618

  7. February 13, 2016 at 6:39 pm

    This is a pretty poor piece of writing, but the Uber/Lyft double parking is out of control. Just like cabbies, they do not want to be inconvenienced by finding a spot to pull over, and are happy to screw up all traffic flow. Only citiations will correct this and that does not seem to be possible. Just like the knuckleheads at Dolores park who can’t be bothered to take their trash to the trash can, this town is filled with spoiled brats who think of themselves and not the common good. Not to mention all the Amazon Prime, must have it in two days, delivery trucks.