New Report Confirms Uber, Lyft Make S.F. Traffic Miserable

The rideshare companies declined to provide data and preemptively challenged the report.

Traffic on Mission Street (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

Confirming what many could infer for themselves, a new city report released Tuesday found that Uber and Lyft have made traffic in San Francisco substantially worse.

Specifically, traffic woes increased from 2010 to 2016 and transportation network companies (TNCs) like Lyft and Uber are responsible for about half of it. The San Francisco County Transportation Authority report attributed the other half to the 70,000 new residents and 150,000 jobs added during the same period. 

As the fallout of the recession loomed in 2010, the average traffic speed stood at 24 miles per hour but fell to 20 mph in 2016. Researchers — tracking delays, miles traveled, and average speeds — found that after 6:30 p.m. rideshare cars made up 60 percent of traffic.

Unsurprisingly, the rideshare companies preemptively challenged the report, the Examiner reported. Lyft called it “flawed and an incomplete picture of the transit challenges San Francisco faces” while Uber said it failed to consider the spike in tourism and freight deliveries, among other critical factors. But neither provided data for the report, which instead partnered with the University of Kentucky to scrape existing data without their permission to supplement other traffic data.

“I don’t think their voices have any credibility whatsoever,” said Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer at the SFCTA meeting Tuesday, referring to the lack of collaboration.

Average daily congestion in San Francisco analyzed by SFCTA

The SFCTA paired its analysis with an interactive map that shows downtown bearing the brunt of TNC traffic. Supervisor Aaron Peskin noted at Tuesday’s meeting that it presents an opportunity to discuss congestion pricing for downtown, which has been met with opposition in the past and would require state legislation.

“[I] thought we should take that out of the dustbin of history,” Peskin said of congestion pricing. “Not surprisingly, [the map] tells us what we all know and experience.”

The SFCTA aims to further studies the impact of TNCs, particularly on transit ridership, street safety, and equity. Cynics scoffing at such studies with “tell me what I don’t know” can afford some optimism — because if the city knows exactly how rideshare companies affect the city, the studies are an excuse to keep talking about it and craft appropriate solutions.

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