Lyft Off Valencia

Rideshare app Lyft will no longer pick you up on a certain stretch of Valencia Street, but your 10-foot detour may reap significant public benefits.

(Photo: Jessica Christian)

Ever dodged a car door flying open on Valencia Street? You’re not alone: The SFMTA reports that nearly half of all bike collisions on Valencia involve double-parking and dooring by rideshare and taxi vehicles. But Lyft (which usually tops Uber at trying to be less evil) wants to put a dent in these numbers, and will soon make ride-hailers on Valencia’s busiest three-block stretch walk a few yards further to enter their Lyft on a less-busy side street.

Soon, Lyft will no longer pick you up on the most popular patch of Valencia Street. “Anyone requesting a ride on Valencia Street between 16th Street and 19th Street will be redirected to a pickup spot on a side street,” Lyft Senior Transportation Policy Manager Debs Schrimmer wrote in a blog post this week announcing the decision.

That’s a big deal, but the company has not announced the effective date on which this new policy goes into place.

According to reams of Lyft data on a pilot of this program, your pick-up time does figure to be longer under the new system — a whole three seconds longer, on average.

“During the pilot, we saw loading time increased from an average of 25 seconds per ride to 28 seconds,“ Schrimmer says.

To be clear, Lyft will still honor your Valencia ride request, they’ll just make you walk 10 to 20 feet down an adjacent side street to catch your ride, a practice called geofencing.

But this restriction only applies to ride requests, not drop-offs. Lyft claims that drop-offs are far less time-consuming than pickups, an assertion that does square up with common sense and personal experience.

The difference is what the rideshare industry calls “dwell time”, that is, that gap between when the driver first pulls over and when you actually enter or exit the car. This can sometimes several minutes for a pick-up, but is generally instant for a drop-off.

The idea to geofence Valencia Street did not come from Lyft, but from a blistering Nov. 2017 letter sent to Lyft and Uber from District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen.

“Valencia is completely out of control with bikes, cars, and pedestrians struggling to safely navigate the street,” Ronen fumed in her letter, which at least got some real-world response from Lyft.

This latest move is a small victory, but far from a rideshare revolution; it’s just Lyft making one significant change in a particularly accident-prone microregion. This is a laudable effort, but one announced with strokes of martyrdom and borderline-extortion.

“The city needs more loading zones to support increased demand for curbside loading,” Schrimmer complains in the letter, as if San Francisco city infrastructure should be planned around Lyft’s next couple of quarterly earnings goals.

Lyft is a very convenient service for the disposable-income smartphone set, but it has created a number of transit problems, as has its more ambitious big brother Uber. Here, it seems Lyft is probably trying to score brownie points at City Hall, but with a move has the fortunate side effect of protecting lives.

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