Category Archives: San Francisco Under Siege

The Outside Lands Transportation Shit Show

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On my way to the city to work Outside Lands

I just completed my fourth Outside Lands as a driver, which prompted me to reevaluate my previous reportage on working the three day music festival in Golden Gate Park. 

My first OSL was in 2014 as an Uber/Lyft driver. I covered that experience here.

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My second OSL was in a taxi and I wrote about it here

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Since I didn’t publish anything about my third year working Outside Lands in 2016, I searched my computer for any notes I may have written and found this:

The tide is turning as anti-Uber backlash surges…

Passengers are starting to realize that Uber and Lyft drivers, the majority of whom aren’t from the area, are creating most of the traffic congestion in The City, especially during major festivals.

That’s what happened during Outside Lands.

I wasn’t making any money driving people home from the festival. With all the congestion getting back to the park for another load, it just wasn’t worth my time…

Next week, my column will be about working Outside Lands for the fourth time. And no, it’s not going to be pretty…

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An Accidental Tub-thumper

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In this week’s column for the S.F. Examiner, I pick up a family who’s exposed to San Francisco’s ugly side on 6th Street, AKA, the Dirty Six. Instead of letting them think the worst, I try to help them understand the consequences of the city’s epic income disparity.

As I wait for the light to change at Mission, a bedraggled woman on the corner is flailing her arms and bitching out the sky.

“Oh my god.” The lady behind me gasps. “What’s wrong with her?”

As I continue down, she points out the motley cast of characters hanging out on the sidewalks and expresses shock at the various displays of mental illness.

“How close are we to your neighborhood?” she asks her son. “I’m really not comfortable with you living around all this squalor.”

“It’s not my neighborhood,” he replies with obvious annoyance.

“It doesn’t look safe here at all,” she intones.

“Mom, I never even come down here!”

As they go back and forth on how much danger she thinks he’s being exposed to, despite his protestations, I feel the need to interrupt. Not that I’m feeling like much of a booster for San Francisco these days, but … someone has to do it.

Read the entire column here.

[photo by Douglas O’Connor]

The 16th Street Clusterfuck

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The 16th Street Corridor between Guerrero and Mission is one of the worst traffic clusterfucks in the city. Lined with boutiques, liquor stores, bars, restaurants, shops, movie theaters and apartment buildings – all easily accessed via the BART station on Mission – the corridor functions as a nucleus. A welcome center. Not just to the Mission, but the whole city.

It’s where neighborhoods collide and intersect: SoMa to the northeast, like a pair of shades. Tenderloin due north, where your mind is in the gutter. The Castro is west, like a pack of cigarettes in your jean pockets. Duboce Triangle, on your shoulder like a backpack. And the Haight, the feather in your cap.

The Mission is where it’s at.

El corazón de la ciudad.

And 16th Street is the jugular.

Since the street runs halfway across the city – a straight shot east to west, from the Bay to the Castro – it’s also a quasi thoroughfare along the southern edge of the metro area. And thus, a hotspot of activity day and night. After all, that Latino heat is what gives the city flavor.

As a taxi driver, I try to avoid the area.

The 16th Street Corridor is – in addition to all those other things – a fucking quagmire. If there ever was a reason for that word to exist, it’s the 16th Street Corridor.

With no left turns at Guerrero and Mission, once you enter, you’re trapped. You either push through or retreat down an alley. Otherwise you’ll forced to circumvent packs of drunken jaywalkers. And the inevitable army of Ubers and Lyfts.

Driving in the 16th Street Corridor is like going to war with a bunch of preschoolers. I just want to start slapping drivers upside the head. “Whatsamattawitcha! Fucken morons!”

When they’re not double-parking with reckless abandon, impeding the flow of cars, bicyclists and two Muni routes, they’re driving like complete assholes or chickens with their heads cut off.

So last Friday, when Mr. Judy calls me from Albion and 16th looking for an evac, I’m not thrilled. Nonetheless, I charge into the maelstrom, blasting Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein.”

Mr. Judy is standing in front of Monk’s Kettle giving dirty looks to passersby. I quickly pull over and he jumps in the backseat.

“Just in time,” he says ominously.

Read the rest on the examiner site.

[photo by Shaun Osburn]

Requiem for Valencia Street

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The City is dead.

It’s barely midnight, and half of the bars in the Mission are already shuttered. Most of the late-night taquerias as well. Even the line at El Farolito is barely out the door.

There isn’t much left to do but ride the green wave down Valencia Street and blast Galaxie 500 as an Uber tailgates me. Probably wants to race up to the red light, slam on his brakes and then speed off to the next intersection. ’Cause that’s what they do.

I could easily pull over and let him get on with his exercise in futility while I practice my own, but the lo-fi psychedelia pouring out of my speakers has me in a tranquil headspace. Ah, who am I kidding? I just really love annoying Uber drivers.

Not that I should harbor so much animosity toward these poor schmucks who don’t yet know they’re getting screwed. One day, they might figure out the system is rigged against them.

Slowly, the public is becoming aware that taxi drivers aren’t the only ones getting screwed anymore. As the wave of anti-Uber/Lyft backlash continues to surge, the people of San Francisco are realizing they’re also getting the proverbial big one up the you-know-what.

It seems the only people benefiting from the proliferation of scab cabs are the passengers who use these services. Of course, they’re usually skulked down in the backseat with their phones in front of their faces, willfully oblivious to the problems their transportation choices create, so who knows what they think …

Read the rest here.

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Bring on the Self-Driving Ubers

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The news last week that Uber had unleashed a fleet of driverless vehicles in San Francisco — much like the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s recent announcement that Uber and Lyft are causing most of The City’s traffic congestion — was met by the majority of taxi drivers with a resounding: “Uh doy!”

We’ve been seeing these vehicles, as well as others outfitted with antennas and various gadgets, for months. The other day, I drove past an 18-wheeler run by OTTO, a company recently acquired by Uber that’s developing autonomous big-rigs.

Uber’s official roll out last on December 14, however, didn’t go as planned. By that afternoon, someone had photographed one of their self-driving cars almost running into an intersection on Van Ness, and a Luxor cab recorded video of another one blowing through a red light in front of SFMOMA, narrowly missing a pedestrian.

In the media feeding frenzy that followed, Uber blamed the mishaps on human error. OK. But if they can’t train humans to obey traffic laws, what does that say about their ability to create driverless cars?

Personally, I’d much rather share the road with automated vehicles than the typical inexperienced, out-of-town drivers who disrupt the flow of traffic. If Uber’s hiccup of a launch last week proved anything, it’s that the problem really is — in their own words — “the other dude in the car.”

As anyone who has spent a significant amount of time driving in San Francisco can attest, most Uber drivers are totally unpredictable, usually confused and potentially unhinged psychopaths…

Read the rest of this column, including my experience with a crazy Uber driver here.

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Don’t let the door hit you on the way out: Uber’s fleet of self-driving cars leave San Francisco… transported to Arizona, appropriately enough, on semi-autonomous semis.

This column generated some Facebook love:

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Getting Higher Radio Interview

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On Dec. 1, 2016, I was a guest on the Getting Higher Radio podcast, hosted by AJ Cook and Jon Foreman. We had a rowdy conversation about taxis, drugs, politics and life in San Francisco.

Check it out here.

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