Category Archives: Uber all up in this

The Failed Uber Driver Strike of 2019

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Originally published in the S.F. Examiner on May 16, 2019.

It was just another Wednesday night in San Francisco.

Given the opportunity for a do over, I never would have worked last Wednesday.

Like many, I was curious to witness the outcome of the Uber “strike,” even though anyone could have easily assumed it would be a flop. That didn’t stop the SFMTA from sending out an email a few days prior, notifying cab drivers that due to the protest there might be increased demand for taxis.

It seems everyone got the memo. Because when I got to the Yellow yard, there were no available cabs. I ended up waiting over an hour for one to become available.

After half an hour pacing the ground in front of the office, I contemplated going back home. But I had to work. Like so many desperate Uber/Lyft drivers, struggling to make money in this oversaturated market, I didn’t have a choice.

On the following Friday, I was driving to LA for my mother-in-law’s 70th birthday party. As I’m sure anyone with a Jewish mother, in-law or otherwise, from the Old Country or not, can attest, there’s no way in hell I could miss this milestone.

So Wednesday and Thursday were my only chances to make enough money to cover gas and incidentals for the trip and not have to beg my wife, who’d flown down with the baby that morning, for a bank transfer.

Of course, there was always a possibility that taxis would hit pay dirt because of the protests. After all, stranger things have happened…

Read the rest here.


Wanna Go for a Ride?

Just released: Dispatches from Behind the Wheel: The Omnibus –
The Complete Zine Series about Driving for Hire in San Francisco

A Phony Lid paperback original. Includes all four issue of Behind the Wheel, revised and expanded with additional content. A Lyft Driver’s Log • Notes from an Uber/Lyft • From Uber/Lyft to Taxi • The Thin Checkered Line

Get all the details here.

 

The Real Impact of Uber/Lyft on Traffic

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Originally published in the S.F. Examiner on August 7, 2019.

“You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows,” Bob Dylan once sang. While most of us are able to figure things out with our eyes and brains, the powers that be seem incapable of making or accepting empirical observations. Especially when it comes to Uber and Lyft.

On Monday, the two companies released the findings of a jointly funded analysis by an independent transportation firm detailing the impact of their services on traffic in six US cities, including San Francisco. News that Uber and Lyft are responsible for a significant amount of congestion was met with a resounding, “Duh!”

You don’t need an independent transportation firm to know that Uber and Lyft are mucking up traffic.

Anyone who’s ever tried to get around San Francisco has witnessed the consequences of Uber’s and Lyft’s concerted efforts to flood the streets with cars. While idling in gridlock, trying in vain to get through an intersection, you just have to look at the cars around you to notice most have Uber and/or Lyft decals.

Of course, despite the recent findings, Uber’s head of global policy immediately shirked responsibility by arguing that private cars still make up most of the congestion.

Sure, if you’re only looking at figures. But it doesn’t take a statistician to figure out that an influx of 6,000 vehicles for hire on any given day will have an extensive impact on traffic.

Read the rest here.


Wanna Go for a Ride?

Just released: Dispatches from Behind the Wheel: The Omnibus –
The Complete Zine Series about Driving for Hire in San Francisco

A Phony Lid paperback original. Includes all four issue of Behind the Wheel, revised and expanded with additional content. A Lyft Driver’s Log • Notes from an Uber/Lyft • From Uber/Lyft to Taxi • The Thin Checkered Line

Get all the details here.

 

The App Is Watching You

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Wheels in the Head: Ridesharing as Monitored Performance

Ridesharing services offer on-demand rides much like taxicabs, but distinguish themselves from cabs by emphasizing the friendly, social aspect of the in-car interaction. Crucial to the ability of these companies to distinguish themselves from cabs has been the insertion of smartphones as “social interfaces” between drivers and passengers, restructuring social interaction through an allegorithm the productive co-deployment of a socially relevant allegorical script and a software-mediated algorithm). Much of the affective labor of ridesharing drivers consists in maintaining this affective framing and internalizing the logic by which their performances are monitored. In this article the writings of three ridesharing drivers will be drawn on to illustrate the ways drivers develop and evaluate their own performances as ridesharing drivers.

This scholarly article in Surveillance and Society (available as a free PDF) by Donald Nathan Anderson explores the “social interface” as part of driving for Uber and Lyft, and how the companies utilize algorithms to remotely monitor – and ultimately control – the behaviors of drivers and passengers.

The author references the first two issues of Behind the Wheel, as well as early I Drive SF blog posts, to elucidate the Uber/Lyft experience from a driver’s perspective.

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Pimp my Taximeter

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As the prime movers behind the Uberization of San Francisco’s taxi industry, Flywheel, the taxi-hailing app, and Flywheel, the taxi company, seem so intent on emulating Uber that they’re even taking a page out of deposed CEO Travis Kalanick’s “Guide to Being a Complete Dirtbag.”

Last Wednesday, Flywheel sent out a message informing drivers not affiliated with one of their color scheme partners that we’ll no longer be receiving orders through the app. Unless, that is, we switch to one of the six color scheme partners.

Drivers were understandably outraged that Hansu Kim, the owner of Flywheel, the app, and Flywheel, the taxi company, would actually kneecap 1,000s of drivers who rely on the app for part of their income, as well as stymie users who expect Flywheel to provide prompt service and, through this divisive act, traduce the industry in the public eye.

As one driver put it: “Just when you think it can’t get any worse …”

But wait. It gets worse.

Since the color scheme partners listed in their first message all use Flywheel’s TaxiOS, instead of the traditional taximeter, most drivers assumed that was the proviso: Adopt their backend, app-based metering system and shoulder the massive costs associated with acquiring hundreds of smartphones to run the app, removing the old taximeter equipment and then paying them monthly service and network charges and a percentage of Flywheel orders, credit card-processing fees and dispatch orders routed through the app.

Displaying Uber-like greed, Flywheel seems to want a piece of all our action, on top of what we’re already giving the cab companies for leasing vehicles.

In return, we get the Flywheel orders back, for which we’d been paying them a cut of appropriately 13 percent.

Now that’s what you call a hornswoggling.

Read the rest here.

[photo by Christian Lewis]

Canary in the Coal Mine

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I was talking with a journalist recently about the inevitable death of the taxi industry. He seemed surprised by my response, that taxis aren’t going anywhere.

“They may not look the same in the future,” I said, “or function the same, but when the day comes that a retired couple from Omaha flying into SFO is required to not only possess a smartphone but also download an app, give a third-party company their personal information, agree to terms of service that allow them to track their movements and then sell that information to other companies for marketing purposes just to get a ride into The City is the day you can officially say San Francisco has lost its soul.”

We were at The Orbit Room, and while he wrote down my comment, one of those old streetcars from Vienna clattered past on Market Street.

No, taxis aren’t going anywhere. And automated vehicles are a long, long way off. In San Francisco, anyway. Unless The City invests millions of dollars in public infrastructure.

Several months ago, I drove two guys who picked my brain about which streets in The City were the worst to drive on. As soon as I found out they worked for Ford, I challenged them on the issue of self-driving cars.

“You know they’ll never work here, don’t you?” I demanded. “It’s hard enough for a human to drive in this city, much less a computer. Besides potholes the size of Lake Merritt, many streets don’t even have clearly marked lanes. How are lasers supposed to detect something that’s not there? It’s impossible, right?”

Both guys nodded.

No, taxis aren’t going anywhere.

Read the rest here.

[photo by Douglas O’Connor]

Uber/Lyft drivers just wanna be taxi drivers

If Uber is so cool and taxis are so lame, why do so many Uber drivers try to turn their cars into taxis?

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Used to see this one around for a while. Not so much anymore. Guess they got tired of being mascots for a lost cause.

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A few touches here are there to make sure the car is branded just right…

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This guy is the chicken dinner winner of the dipshit Uber mascots. Willing to bet he’s since painted this over.

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Creepy Uber driver with a little Uber toplight.

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Not sure what’s more pathetic, the personalized license plate advertising Uber or that the driver actually thinks people love Uber.

uber-driver-begging-for-tips

Even drivers who don’t brand their cars covet what taxi drivers get without question: tips. This guy is so desperate for them he’s willing to offer free water, phone chargers, jerk off cream and dental care.

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The silver Prius with the SpoonRocket car topper placed like a taxi toplight. He was all over town for several months…

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Until he was eventually run out of town when confronted by a group of taxi drivers and the SFPD.

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Whatever the fuck this guy is up to, he’s got all the bases covered.

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Company branding for SF Pride. Rainbow spots? Like a pox?

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Uber’s “self-driving” cars are so desperate for attention…

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A self-driving car looks like a futuristic taxi… At some point, they’ll probably cover the sensors with ad boards. Because why not?

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For Halloween one year, I was a Lyft driver. It was scary. And all I did was confuse people.

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As Uber/Lyft drivers complete the transformation into half-assed taxi drivers , they’ll start refusing to provide service unless the circumstances are exactly to their liking, just like the taxi drivers did before Uber and Lyft, and the golden age of the passenger will come to a screeching halt. I think we can all agree on one thing: that day can’t come soon enough.

 

Friends Don’t Let Friends Uber

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An op-ed about the latest #DeleteUber trend. From Broke-Ass Stuart’s Goddamn Website.

Ahhh… there’s nothing like waking up to a good Boycott Uber movement. The joy of seeing their louche brand dragged through the mud is always exhilarating. But it’s fleeting. Because the latest #DeleteUber trend, like every other wave of public outrage directed at the company in the past, will eventually fizzle away and be forgotten.

So what if Uber CEO Travis Kalanick agreed to join a Trump advisory group… So what if Kalanick defended this position by stating that they would “partner with anyone in the world,” even if – apparently – their policies threaten global stability… So what if Uber crossed picket lines during a protest of Trump’s Muslim ban at JFK airport… So what if they deactivated surge pricing and – sort of – said they were sorry…

That’s some fucked-up shit. But they’ve been doing fucked-up shit from day one.

Read the rest here.

[image via]