The Unstudied Traffic Impacts of Uber and Lyft - April 20, 2016 - SF Weekly
SF Weekly

The Unstudied Traffic Impacts of Uber and Lyft

Rents and real estate prices are still sky-high and San Francisco's insufferability matrix seems to break its own record every day. But at least one thing isn't as bad in town today as it was during the first dot-com boom: the traffic. According to the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, the city's little-known long-term transit planning agency, more people drove more miles 16 years ago. Yet at the same time, the SFCTA reports speeds on freeways dropped 10 percent between 2013 and 2015, indicating serious congestion.

Housing plays a role in this. The city has added 140,000 jobs but only 50,000 new residents since 2009, meaning the newcomers have to either BART or drive into town. But oddly, one recent phenomenon of the tech-fueled economic boom times has never been studied: Uber and Lyft.

For all the dazzling numbers associated with the companies — billions in valuation, millions in settlements paid to cities and drivers — there is little data on the impact on traffic caused by the companies' drivers — of which there are 37,000 in San Francisco, city Treasurer José Cisneros announced last week.

Neither the SFCTA nor the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency — which issues the permits for the city's 1,900 taxicabs — have studied the effects on traffic caused by the glut of app-hailed drivers. But it may only get worse: To cut down on traffic, the city encourages alternatives to owning a car, and new citizens seem to be responding — by taking Uber or Lyft. This is one problem building more housing won't solve.