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.

Incensed taxi drivers propose airport strike

By Elizabeth Creely : missionlocal – excerpt

According to Tariq Mehmood, a driver with National Cab Company, a taxi strike is planned for San Francisco International Airport on Feb. 1, one day after so-called “legacy” medallion holders will be barred from picking up fares there.

This comes after a Thursday action at City Hall, during which taxi drivers circled the block and marched to Mayor London Breed’s office in protest of a decision to prohibit drivers with medallions purchased prior to 1978 from working the airport…

Many carried placards calling for Ed Reiskin, director of transportation of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) to be fired.

At issue is the SFMTA’s decision to limit the number of taxis allowed at the airport, a tactic critics say is nothing more than an attempt by the agency to undermine a lawsuit brought against the city by the San Francisco Federal Credit Union last year… (more)

 

 

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.

 

Muni oversight board to nominate new leadership as group calls for ouster

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

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The transportation oversight board that oversees San Francisco’s Muni system — and hires and fires its executive director — is set to see a shakeup in its leadership.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors is poised to vote among its members for a new chair and vice chair next week, the agency confirmed. The move comes during a time of great scrutiny for the agency…

The co-presidents of the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club, an influential political group in the local LGBT community, called on Mayor London Breed to oust its longest standing directors in a letter

The letter cites the summer Muni meltdown, ongoing Muni train “switchbacks,” and an agency contractor laying 3 miles of the wrong type of steel track as mounting grievances that it lays on the shoulders of the current SFMTA board…

The letter noted those directors could fire SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin, who Breed herself put on notice with her own scathing letter earlier this year…

Heinicke, who has served on the board since 2008, has often been the voice for the ailing taxi industry, but is also known as a pragmatist who weighs both drivers and transit options.

“Drivers are people too,” he argued last September when asking SFMTA staff to reach out to local drivers while planning a pedestrian safety project.

Gwyneth Borden, another SFMTA board director and head of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, is expected to be voted in as vice-chair. She also is seen by some insiders as a vote to possibly oust Reiskin, the SFMTA director.… (more)

It is about time. Ten years of damage is enough for any city to put up with. Now is the time to hit City Hall with the personal letters you have been meaning to write. Now is the time to demand change at SFMTA.

SF scales back airport taxi ban

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

The City is scaling back a plan to ban most types of cabs from San Francisco International Airport that was pitched in October as a way to help save the struggling taxi industry.

Under the first plan, only cabbies using the existing 560 taxi permits, or “medallions,” purchased through the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency for roughly $250,000, would be allowed to pick up passengers from SFO.

That would have left some 900 other drivers with medallions, some of whom obtained them in previous decades for free, barred from picking up passengers at SFO…

In the face of objections from taxi drivers, however, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is now pulling back that ban, just a bit.

The agency will allow an additional 570 medallion holders who obtained their permits after 1978 access to SFO, in what SFMTA called a “compromise” measure in an email to the taxi industry sent Thursday…(more)

SFMTA seems to feel they must make a point of disagreeing each time the public asks for something. “YES” is not in their vocabulary.

Supervisor moves to kick private shuttles out of red transit lanes

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfxaminer – excerpt

It’s time for private transit to get out of Muni’s way.

That’s the message from Supervisor Sandra Fewer, who on Monday announced her intention to legally bar private transit vehicles, like tech-industry commuter shuttles, from red transit-only lanes meant to speed public buses.

Fewer’s announcement that she would ask the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to help her craft legislation limiting private access to the transit lanes came at the tail-end of a City Hall hearing where San Franciscans from all corners of The City said they were seeing red over the city policy allowing it.

“The goal should be that public transit is the main mode of the people in San Francisco,” Fewer told the public Tuesday…

However controversy arose in August when SFMTA Citizen Advisory Council member Sue Vaughan discovered the agency planned to allow private transit vehicles use of the soon-to-come Geary Rapid Project red carpet lanes. The discovery has drawn protests from activists and organizations across The City.

The South of Market Community Action Network, United to Save the Mission, Chinatown Community Development Center, Chinatown TRIP, Inner Sunset Action Community, Senior Disability Action, San Francisco Transit Riders and other advocacy groups spoke out Monday against private use of public Muni-only lanes… (more)

Very robust public comments and discussions following the presentation by SFMTA. We look forward to moving ahead to fix some of the many failures of the Red Lanes through a series of legislative improvements.

 

Airports Take A Hit As Uber And Lyft Rise In Popularity

By Helen Storms : inquisitr – excerpt

Many are taking advantage of services like Uber and Lyft to avoid the stress of airports.

Uber, Lyft, and other similar transportation services are transforming the way people are traveling this holiday season. If you’ve had to take a flight recently, your first thought upon touching down was likely how to get out of the airport as quickly as possible. In the past, taking a cab was most people’s best option. That is, if they didn’t want to opt for public transportation. Now, Uber and Lyft is becoming the most popular way to escape the chaos of major airports. This is likely due to the convenience that these types of services offer. No more standing out in unpleasant weather trying to hail a cab. With this new technology, you can have a driver waiting to pick you up the minute you land. However, according to Wired, this new trend is causing a multitude of issues for airports… (more)

Looks like the Uber Lyfts are have taken on more than just the taxis. They are competing the old fashioned way, by cornering the market and the CPUC is helping them complete against the government entities by removing them from government regulation. Removal of government regulations has a familiar ring to it.

Red Lane Amendments and Efforts to Stop the Corporatization of our Streets

MissionReds

After months of letters, comments and neighborhood pushback against many elements of corporate takeover of our streets and public spaces, many people who shocked by the announcement that some of the Red Lanes in the city are open to use by private enterprise vehicles, such as tech buses, private shuttles, and any vehicle that carries more than 10 riders, based on the definition of a bus.

Supervisor Fewer, among others, scheduled hearings on the use of the Red Lanes that were re-scheduled a couple of times, and reset for early December. As many people were preparing for those meetings, we got the news that recent developments at the Land Use and Transportation Committee may have made those hearings unnecessary.  November 5, 2018, Aaron Peskin aide, Lee Hepner, introduced Amendment 18-862, that was passed unanimously to the Full Board by the Land Use and Transportation Committee:

Ordinance 180862 – Ordinance amending Division I of the Transportation Code to establish a procedure for Board of Supervisors review of Municipal Transportation Agency decisions related to Bus Rapid Transit projects that do not include transit-only areas or lanes for Municipal Railway vehicles, taxis, authorized emergency vehicles, and/or Golden Gate Transit vehicles; and affirming the Planning Department’s determination under the California Environmental Quality Act.

The tape of the meeting is below, go to Item 6: http://sanfrancisco.granicus.com/player/clip/31749?view_id=10&meta_id=642988

As a matter of introduction Mr. Hepler described the areas of concern that are under the purview of the Board of Supervisors, though they are not being added to this amendment at this time.

This is a paraphrased transcript of the meeting:

Within the text of Prop A, there is a provision that allows the Board of Supervisors to enact an ordinance that gives the Board the option to review SFMTA decisions regarding various curb space decisions, bicycle lanes, traffic mitigations and measures etc…

Background information:  Supervisors Peskin and Safai co-sponsored Ordinance 180089, to enact that review provision regarding curb use. That ordinance expressly exempted certain projects from review that were determined to be public interest projects, such as bike lanes, curb modifications for street sweeping, and bus rapid transit projects.

This new ordinance is taking on elements of the Bus Rapid Transit Projects that are not clearly defined in the code and providing guidance as to the scope of the board’s review authority of these projects. This proposal expresses this board’s desire to promote Bus Rapid Transport projects that are generally designed and implemented to further public transportation reliability.

The amendment clarifies the Board of Supervisor’s policy preference. The board would not review BRT projects that are designed for public transportation use, but would take review of BRT projects designed for use by private commercial shuttles, tour busses or other modes of private transportation that might actually impede the flow of public transportation.

The proposed amendment… replaces the words, “bus rapid transit project” with “bus rapid transit project that includes transit only areas or lanes for municipal railway vehicles, taxis, authorized emergency vehicles, and/or Golden Gate Transit Vehicles.”

SFMTA appears to have collaborated on this. The amendment passed to the full Board of Supervisors as is on the agenda for the November 13 Board of Supervisors meeting. We had no notice, but, this appears to be going through rather rapidly. In this case, that may be a good thing.

Uber And Lyft Are Making Traffic Worse While Claiming To Fix It

By Michael Hobbes : huffingtonpost – excerpt

The ride-hailing companies want you to think they’re reducing congestion and promoting public transit. Their actions tell a different story.

For years now, Uber and Lyft have argued that their business model provides a way for cities to augment public transport, reduce car ownership and beat traffic congestion.

In 2015, Uber co-founder and then-CEO Travis Kalanick told a room of CEOs that he envisioned “a world where there’s no more traffic in Boston in five years.” The co-founder of Lyft, John Zimmer, predicted in 2016 that private car ownership “will all-but end in major U.S. cities” by 2025. “If Lyft Line were to be applied to all single occupancy taxi trips,” Zimmer and his co-founder, Logan Green, wrote in 2017, “it would reduce the number of vehicles needed by 75 percent.” They called their post “The End of Traffic.”

But these utopian visions have yet to square with reality. Since 2015, studies have consistently found that ride-sharing is associated with more driving, less public transit use and worsening congestion. Car traffic and ownership rates are still rising and, according to a study earlier this year, up to 60 percent of Uber and Lyft rides replace walking, biking, buses and trains — transportation modes that didn’t add cars to the roads. Just this month, the San Francisco County Transportation Authority concluded that ride-sharing accounted for roughly half of the 37 extra minutes San Franciscans spend sitting in traffic every day compared to 2010…

A study by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority concluded that ride-hailing accounted for roughly half the increase in congestion between 2010 and 2016.

(more)

What does it take to change situation that is well-documented by a number of studies? We are told the California PUC is responsible for removing local government control over the TNCs, Google buses and other non-public transportation business models that we are causing the major traffic problems and putting our public transportation systems at a disadvantage? Maybe the solution is to change the CPUC. Ask the governor wannabes how they will do this.