Wednesday, July 5, 2017

SF’s traffic planners weren’t expecting rise of Uber, Lyft

By Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross of the San Francisco Chronicle.
"Hard to believe, but San Francisco’s transit wonks were caught completely off guard by the ride-hailing revolution that now floods the city with thousands of cars daily.

In fact, when the city was drawing up its transportation “Major Strategic Plan” back in 2012, planners thought “ride shares” meant car pooling. So as the Municipal Transportation Agency drew up a blueprint for more bus- and bike-only lanes — and less space for cars — it was blind to the wave of Uber and Lyft cars that was about to inundate the streets.

“I don’t think anyone anticipated this would happen, including Lyft and Uber,” said transportation agency chief Ed Reiskin.

Randy Rentschler of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which oversees regional transportation planning, said city officials may have fallen victim to their vision of how things should be instead of how they are.

“Public policy often aims for a certain outcome — and as such, it can be harder to predict what you don’t want to happen, so you don’t see it,” Rentschler said.

In fact, Uber and Lyft now carry 283,000 people per workday in San Francisco and make up 9 percent of all vehicle trips in the city, according to a recent survey by the city Transportation Authority.

And for the first time in years, Muni ridership has dropped.

City Hall is increasingly interested in ways to ease the congestion that some officials blame on ride hailing. City Attorney Dennis Herrera has subpoenaed documents from Uber and Lyft to try to determine whether the firms are complying with city traffic, disability access and environmental regulations. Supervisor Jane Kim has suggested a 20-cent-per-ride fee to raise money for unspecified anticongestion measures.

Uber has put out feelers that it would be willing to talk with the city. But it wants the conversation to include all aspects of congestion, including the surge in double-parked delivery trucks, the growth of bike lanes and other street reconfigurations designed to slow traffic.

“The feeling (at City Hall) seems to be, ‘If you can’t beat ’em, tax ’em,’ but at this point I’d just like them to give us more information so we can see what is really going on,” said Supervisor Aaron Peskin.

Wouldn’t we all."

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