Study blames Uber/Lyft for San Francisco traffic, Uber/Lyft blames Amazon, propose surge pricing

A new report from the San Francisco County Transportation Authority attributes the majority (51%-73%) of the prodigious 2010-2016 increase in San Francisco traffic congestion on Uber and Lyft; the rideshare companies dispute the finding and say that it's really down to increased Amazon Prime delivery vehicles and Lyft has offered to work with the city on "congestion pricing" whereby use of the public roads are taxed at the same rate for both the city's incredibly wealthy tech elite and struggling underclass, with the intention of limiting private vehicle use.

The companies have agreed to a 3.5% tax on single-rider trips to fund public transit, which will only go into effect if it is ratified by ballot initiative in 2019.

San Francisco's public transit is markedly over capacity; it's been years since I last got a seat on a BART train and I frequently have to wait for multiple trains to go by before I find a car with enough space to board.

By contrast, the French city of Dunkirk made its public transit free and increased service levels and saw a massive decrease in private vehicle use and traffic congestion; riders have discovered a newfound socialibility with their neighbors that they find delightful.

"In the stories that are told all the time, blanket statements are made," says Joe Castiglione, the deputy director for technology, data, and analysis at the SFCTA. "That really ignores a lot of the reality of the situation: Not that these impacts are spread everywhere in space or time, but that, in fact, they are highly concentrated in space and time."

Castiglione and his colleagues will present the report to the city's Board of Supervisors, its main legislative body, on Tuesday morning. It will be up to the board to decide how to use the data. In fact, the board just struck a deal with the ride-hailers: This summer, after a protracted negotiation with the city, both Uber and Lyft agreed to a proposal for a new 3.25 percent tax on net rider fares for each solo trip, and a 1.5 percent tax on shared rides. Government officials say the money raised from these new taxes will county transit uses. The agreement has to be affirmed in a ballot measure by two-thirds of city voters, who will decide on the proposal next year.

And it's always worth remembering, as transportation professionals say again and again, that congestion can be a sign that your city is thriving. "Congestion arises because we have people, and people go out and do things and they have jobs," says Castiglione. Fighting congestion is good. But expecting traffic to disappear—or blaming it all on one or two players—isn't realistic.

Uber and Lyft Made Traffic Worse in San Francisco. But It's Complicated [Aarian Marshall/Wired]

(Image: Zzyzx11, CC-BY-SA)