Are Uber and Lyft a ‘Public Nuisance’?

City Attorney Dennis Herrera thinks so, and is taking both companies to court.

(Aleah Fajardo)

For years, Lyft and Uber vehicles have had the run of San Francisco’s streets. At first, drivers were mostly people who lived in the city — musicians supporting their craft, college students making an extra buck — and pick-up wait times were often more than five minutes. But now, drivers are commuting from as far away as Fresno, many sleeping in their cars or pulling all-nighters to make their quota before heading home, and the clientele has come to demand it (listen for those audible groans on Valencia on a Friday night when a ride is more than four minutes away). An estimated 45,000 Uber and Lyft drivers now coast down our hilly city’s streets, amid claims of public safety issues and traffic congestion. So far, the complaints haven’t had the data to back them up, but City Attorney Dennis Herrera is on a mission to change that.

 On Friday, Herrera announced that he’s requesting court orders that demand that Lyft and Uber comply with subpoenas filed on June 5 of this year. The goal: to figure out if the ride-hail companies are creating a “public nuisance” in San Francisco. The subpoena requests four years of records in eight separate categories, including miles and hours logged by drivers, incentives that encourage drivers to commute to the city from far away, driver guidance and training, disabled access vehicle information, and routes taken through the city.

“Unfortunately, Uber is doing what it always seems to do: raise obstacles and drag its feet— all while continuing to flout the law,” says Herrera “To its credit, Lyft was more responsive, but in the end, they also raised unreasonable roadblocks. They provided a minimal amount of documents before deciding not to comply with the rest of our request. And they have so far failed to execute a confidentiality agreement that would protect any legitimate trade secrets.  From the beginning, we have been clear that the companies must comply with these subpoenas.  These motions are the next step in protecting the rights of the people who live and work in San Francisco.”    

Uber has opposed the subpoenas, and according to Herrera’s office, has “refused to produce any documents or data at all.” After granting what he says was ample opportunity to follow the law, Herrera has taken both companies to court.

“The status quo is not working,” Herrera said.  “There’s no question that Uber and Lyft offer convenience.  But convenience for some cannot trump the rights of every San Francisco resident and visitor, including the safe enjoyment of our roads and bike lanes. I’m trying to strike the right balance here.”

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