Uber and the Ongoing Erasure of Public Life

By Nikil Saval : newyorker – excerpt

Uber has become a subsidized alternative to the public-transportation systems that it claims to support.

Last September, Uber rolled out a rebranding campaign. A new television commercial showed car doors being flung open and the young and the old crowding in, flying out, and ending up in a small open-air mercado or at a lake. Though there were a few drivers, the image presented was of ceaseless, liberating mobility for passengers, anywhere in the world. Uber changed its logo, too, to a demure sans-serif display—white against a black background, its only flourish a modest pair of mirrored stems attached to the “U” and the “b.” This was a significant change. Since 2016, the phone app and the stickers that identified Uber-enabled cars had enjoyed an image designed partly by the co-founder and then-C.E.O. Travis Kalanick: a circle bisected with a cord, placed against the background of a colorful tile. When tilted ninety degrees counterclockwise, some design and technology journalists noted, it looked unmistakably like a human bent over and seen from behind.

The era of what has been referred to as Uber’s “asshole” logo happened to coincide with the company’s longest stretch of bad press, including multiple reports of sexual abuse inside the company and by its drivers. In 2017, the company’s investors ousted Kalanick. His successor, Dara Khosrowshahi, has made considerable efforts to improve the company’s image in advance of a likely I.P.O. this year. Last October, Khosrowshahi, like many corporate leaders, pulled out of a summit held by Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, in Riyadh, following the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. (Uber still benefits from vast infusions of Saudi funding.)… (more)

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My turn: Public-private partnerships are an industry gimmick that don’t serve public well

By Cathrina Barros : calmatters – exccerpt

The start of a new legislative session inevitably brings calls from industry for lawmakers to authorize privatizing state highway projects through so-called “public-private partnerships.”

That would be a mistake.

Proponents claim multiple benefits such as cost savings and efficiency. But they fail to mention that previous highway projects in our state built with the same scheme they seek have not delivered as promised.

In fact, they are marked by taxpayer bailouts, cost overruns and bankruptcies.

Let’s take a look at the record…

People who want to hand public highway projects over to private interests claim that cost overruns are the responsibility of the developer, not taxpayers.

Tell that to the California Transportation Commission, which in 2017 spent $91 million to cover unexpected cost overruns to the Presidio Parkway developer… (more)

On a local level, SFMTA and their enterprise partners have taken over large swaths of public space in various public/private enterprises that are hard to pin down. It is extremely difficult for the public to access information on the financial details of these agreements, though many attempts have been made. Ask the taxi drivers how their medallion investments have turned out or the firm that financed them. What we end up with is privatization of public property. Rarely does the enterprise benefit the public. If anything, the public/private enterprises become an easy way to hide disbursement of funds from the public.

It appears that Governor Newsom is giving up on the largest boondoggle in recent memory that was supposed to be a public/private enterprise but never caught the imagination of any big money investors. He is suspending High Speed Rail, limiting it to the area that has already been built. Putting the rest of the project on ice. It seems that no one really expects that train to bring in the billions it will take to break even.

San Francisco Sees Decline in Bike Riders

By Christie Smith : nbcbayarea – excerpt (includes video and graphic)

Number-of-Bicyclists-Drops-in-San-Francisco_Bay-Area online

It’s a shock to say the least as numbers show fewer people are biking in the Bay Area, a stunning statement considering how much the city has made streets bike friendly.

With more people moving to San Francisco, riders said there are not enough protected bike lanes for bicyclists.

Considering how much the city has done to make streets more bike friendly, trends show a decrease of riders from 126,000 riders in 2015 to 95,000 in 2017 according to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA)… (more)

One of the interviews is with a Valencia Street Bike Store who admits to having sinking sales over the last five years. It appears that not all industries have done well during the explosion of Bike Lanes. If any bike store in town should be successful it should be one on Valencia, one of the heaviest traveled bike streets in town. We should determine which industries are successful and which are failing by talking to more merchants on Valencia.

Scoot, Skip fail to deliver on promises in first e-scooter accountability report

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : examiner – excerpt

Scoot and Skip pledged helmet lockboxes, low-income programs and more in the applications to The City that helped them earn highly-sought e-scooter pilot program permits.

But in their very first compliance report to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which the agency required after 90 days of permitted operation, those companies revealed they’ve yet to deliver on some of those promises.

“Those were critical promises and commitments made in their original applications. We’re working to ensure their compliance,” said Ben Jose, a spokesperson for the SFMTA.

He added that failing to come into compliance with promises to San Francisco that earned those permits in the first place could lead to dire consequences for the e-scooter companies…

SF’s legal e-scooters, by the numbers
Oct. 15, 2018 — Scoot and Skip launch in SF
22 — Riders who signed up for Skip’s low-income discount program
39,015 — Drivers Licenses approved by Skip to join its platform
4 — Scoot “Kicks” riders caught driving unsafely and warned by the company
39 — Scoot “Kicks” riders caught parking badly and warned by the company
58 — Self-reported collisions on Skip e-scooters… (more)

How can this business plan work when there is little incentive to rent the things, and so many people hate them? They are really cheap to buy, take up no space in your house or  and lightweight enough to carry up stairs to store in an apartment or leave in any bike rack. Just buy one if you want one.

If only our former Mayor now Governor would take it upon himself to take control of the CPUC we might be able to solve some of the problems our state is faced with. CPUC was set up to regulate, not support the public utilities. They are supposed to manage them for the benefit of the public.

When you think about the power the CPUC has over our lives you should worry about the people wielding that power. They unleashed private corporations on our streets and denied local governments the right to regulate them. The traffic jams they created are bad enough, but now they are poised to allow PG&E to pass their legal costs to the ratepayers in the form of higher rates.

Now the Governor plans to tax our drinking water to finance the needs of millions of new citizens moving to California to fill the millions of units of new housing being built. CPuC will likely support that tax on drinking water. If that doesn’t get your attention, not much will.

 

Jammy dodgers: Boffin warns of auto autos congesting cities to avoid parking fees

By Richard Speed : theregister – excerpt

And if traffic is slow, that’s just another efficiency saving

New research anticipates congestion problems as owners of self-driving cars allow their steeds to prowl the streets instead of forking out for parking charges.

The paper by Adam Millard-Ball, an associate professor of environmental studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, was published in the rivetingly named “Transport Policy”.

Millard-Ball makes the point that far from requiring automated parking abilities, such as those trumpeted by the likes of Volkswagen, a self-driving car need never actually park at all. The robotic chariots can simply putter around the streets until the driver is ready for collection… (more)

Is this the nightmare our CPUC is planning to unleash on us next? Constantly prowling auto autos, that never park will congest our streets, waste fuel, and add to the emissions a lot more than private cars that park will. Everyone has noticed the increase in traffic since TNCs arrived on the scene. All hte TNCs at least park at night, while the drivers sleep so the streets are clear at night. Allowing corporation to flood the streets with cars that never park means the traffic will never stop.

We need to implore our Governor to take control of the CPUC.by appointing a new board that will regulate the industries not support them. No one is happy about the PG&E fiasco. Suing them while the CPUC gives them free reign is a waste of taxpayer money. If we had a regulatory agency that regulated the industry we would not need to take it over.

Taxi drivers ask mayor for reprieve from airport ban

By Kevin Hume : sfexaminer – excerpt

Taxicabs lined up and honk as drivers and advocates rally outside City Hall on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 to protest the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s upcoming ban on legacy medallion taxicabs from picking up at San Francisco Airport that begins on February. 1

Taxi drivers rallied outside City Hall on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 before dropping off a letter for Mayor London Breed, asking to speak with her about a decision by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to ban taxi drivers with legacy medallions from picking up people at San Francisco International Airport. Taxi advocates estimate the decision, which is to be implemented Feb. 1, will put 60 percent of The City’s taxi drivers out of work… (more)

Mayor Breed was out of town, but Supervisors Fewer, Haney, and Safai spoke at the rally on the San Francisco City Hall steps.

 

Will a “front door” help San Francisco steer the stampede of emerging technologies testing on its streets?

By Hannah Norman : bizjournals – excerpt

Electric scooters. Delivery robots. Uber and Lyft. Even the soon-to-be shuttered van service Chariot started operating without the approval of San Francisco, with city policies as a secondary thought.

Now San Francisco, which has been ground zero for many emerging technologies, is looking to better keep tabs on the various startups keen on testing or operating their new products in the city. After six months of meetings attended by representatives from over 100 companies, city agencies, think tanks and community organizations, a new report was released Thursday by the Emerging Technology Open Working Group, led by city administrator Naomi Kelly.

“It is clear that technology is part of the social fabric of life in San Francisco,” the report says. “Yet as keepers of the public right-of-way and other public spaces, we must develop appropriate policy measures to mitigate risks and unintended impacts on San Franciscans and our infrastructure.”

The report will next be presented to city’s board of supervisors, likely sometime in January, followed by a hearing… (more)

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Riders ding Muni over long waits, construction in latest survey

By Gordon Chin : sfbay – excerpt

Overall Muni rider satisfaction slipped this year after passengers this summer faced long waits at bus stops citywide due to infrequent service caused by the partial closure of the subway and an operator shortage.

The 2018 rider survey, complied by Corey, Canapary & Galanis Research through phone interviews in Chinese, English and Spanish, showed 63 percent of Muni riders surveyed rated Muni service as either “Excellent” or “Good.” Over the last two years, that number had been
at 70…(more)

RELATED:
Muni approval plunges in public survey

How many bus bridges does it take to tie up traffic in San Francisco? Why is Muni doing hundreds of projects at a time and starting more every week instead of finishing the ones underway? Why can’t the street paving jobs be public complaint driven like many others are? If no one is complaining about the condition of a street, leave it alone and fix the ones that are generating the most complaints. SFMTA needs a complete overhaul and that is the message that the public needs to send to the new supervisors as they take office next month.

MTC News Headlines

mtc – excerpt

Headlines For Dec 14, 2018

Ford GoBike will boost fleet of electric bikes in SF from 250 to 850
San Francisco Chronicle

Ford GoBike more than triples its SF electric bike fleet today
Curbed

Transbay Transit Center inches toward repair
San Francisco Chronicle

Holes cut into steel contributed to beams cracking at SF’s Salesforce Transit CenterEast Bay Times

Holes cut into Transit Center beams ‘probable cause’ for cracks
San Francisco Examiner

Video: No Date Set on When Transbay Transit Terminal Will Reopen
NBC – Bay Area

(more)

Mission Street merchants hate the red lanes, regardless of any benefits to transit

By Liliana Michelena and Abraham Rodriguez : missionlocal – excerpt

A door-to-door survey of 73 Mission businesses reveals deep unrest

Nearly three years after the city installed red bus lanes on Mission Street, merchants still hate them. Fewer cars on the street, they said, has translated into fewer people visiting their shops, and a drop in sales that threatens many of the businesses.

A door-to-door survey of 73 businesses on the Mission Street corridor from 16th to 24th Streets revealed that the changes have been especially hard to stomach for older businesses, many of which are owned by Latinos and Asians. Moreover, few feel they have any organization or city official to turn to…

Although Uber and Lyft have been around longer, the impact on traffic in San Francisco — and likely on Mission Street as well — spiked in 2016, the year the red lanes went in(more)