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.
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 safety, reliability 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.
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.