Tag Archives: traffic

Bay Area Drivers Are the Worst

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Stranger in my Hometown – The “I Drive LA” Edition

This week’s column for the S.F. Examiner is about my trip to LA.

Over the past week, Trumpmania has made it almost impossible to focus on anything besides the election results, as well as the sobering realization I may be one of those left-coast elites disconnected from the rest of the country.

Completely unrelated, though entirely opportune, I distracted myself from the armchair quarterbacking — and the taxi life — for a couple days with a road trip to Los Angeles.

Even though I’m a native Angeleno, I’ve only gone back to Southern California three times in as many years. These days, I feel more like a stranger in my hometown.

Also, driving a taxi 40 hours a week in San Francisco has no doubt helped shape my perception of the two places, because the differences blew me away immediately.

Read the rest of the column here.

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The Thin Checkered Line

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For some stupid reason, I still start my shifts at Caltrain these days, even though the construction on 4th Street guarantees I’ll end up snarled in traffic. I guess I’m a creature of habit, but I also know there’ll always be a few people getting off the train who haven’t summoned one of the Uber-Lyfts that make up most of the vehicles in this quagmire on Townsend. 

I inch forward slowly with steadfast determination toward the sanctuary of the taxi stand. After waiting only two minutes, I’m loaded and heading back into the maelstrom. 

I try to squeeze in front of a Lexus, but the driver isn’t giving me any leeway, riding the bumper of a Honda ahead of him. When the light finally turns green, he lays on his horn as I try to get in between him and the Honda. 

“Do you not understand how a taxi works?” I yell out my window and then mutter under my breath. “I hope the next time you’re in a taxi, some asshole prevents your driver from getting you where you need to go.”

I see an opening to the right and, like a running back fighting my way across the line of scrimmage, I seize the opportunity. The PCO directing traffic motions me through the intersection just as the light turns red. 

So long, suckas! 

Read the rest of the column here.

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A San Francisco National Cab taxi at the intersection of Geary and Powell

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The Many Potholes on the Road to Self-Driving Cars

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“You know it’s a good ride,” Juneaux texts me after letting me know he’d gotten a ride to  Palo Alto, “when you’re using cruise control on the way back The City. 

Just as I’m about to respond with “You lucky bastard,” I get flagged by two guys on the corner of Post and Powell.

“Do you know of any strip clubs open this late?” one asks. 

Five minutes later and $50 richer, I drive away from New Century, thinking about the different services we offer as taxi drivers and how difficult it would be to replace the taxi experience with self-driving cars.

Take the four women I picked up earlier that day outside Magnolia on Haight for example. They’re going to the Marriott Maquis. 

“But first we need to see the painted ladies. Is that alright?”

That’s more than alright. A $15 fare turned into a $25 fare, since I obviously had to show them other Victorians in the neighborhood. 

How can you get service like that from a self-driving car? 

Read the rest here.

 

The Passenger is (Not) Always Right

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Nobody knows the streets of San Francisco like cab drivers. Not the cops, the firemen, the bus drivers… Only cab drivers traverse every inch of The City.

Sure, Uber and Lyft drivers cover almost as much ground (save the transit lanes), but with their faces constantly in their phones, following a line in a navigation app, what do they really see? Judging by how most drive, they certainly aren’t looking at the road. 

After a year of working the cabstands outside Mighty and Public Works, I’ve carved particular routes through The City that are, in my mind, efficient, both time-wise and cost-wise.

Since there is little traffic at 3 a.m., I drive as the bird flies, following the map of San Francisco imprinted in my brain and try to hit the timed lights.

When I get a fare out of Public Works, say, going to the Sunset District, I take Fifteenth to Castro, which becomes Divisadero, and turn left on Fell.

This path also works for the Richmond District, except, instead of continuing through the park, I take a right on Stanyan to Fulton.

Easy-peasy.

Out of curiosity, I followed the directions from Public Works to the Sunset District according to Google Maps: Mission to Van Ness, turn left on Hayes, another left at Gough and then a right onto Fell. In the end, this path cost over two dollars more and wasted several minutes.

So fuck you and your GPS, right?

Well, not so fast…

My column in the S.F. Examiner this week is about some of the most annoying passengers: directionally challenged backseat drivers. 

Read it here

 

(screenshot of the MacArthur Maze from Google Maps)

 

And now this, from Jimmy the Cab Driver:

The Taxi You Yield to May Be Your Own

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On the streets of San Francisco, there are three types of drivers: yahoos, slow pokes and cabbies.

After hours and hours and days and days behind the wheel, National 182 is basically an extension of my body. I’m always in complete control of my vehicle, just as I am always in control of my arms and legs.

This week’s column in the S.F. Examiner

Photo by Juneaux

 

When Will We Finally Hit Peak Uber/Lyft?

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Originally appeared on Broke-Ass Stuart’s Goddamn Website

The hardest part of driving a cab in San Francisco is dealing with all the Uber/Lyft cars clogging the streets.  I’m willing to venture at least ninety percent of these freshly minted drivers don’t know what the hell they’re doing.  They double-park with reckless abandon, jamming up arterial thoroughfares and high traffic streets like Polk, Valencia and Castro.  They rely on navigation to get around, which means they’re staring at their phones when they should be watching the road.  They turn left off Market, take rights from left lanes and flip U-turns wherever they feel the need.  They infringe on taxi lanes and stands.  And when you try to correct them, they become violent.

At the front of almost any traffic clusterfuck is an Uber/Lyft car.  It doesn’t matter what time of day or which part of the city, if there’s a backup of cars, chances are, an Uber/Lyft driver is to blame.

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Willie Brown recently brought up the proliferation of Uber/Lyft cars in his column as he related a conversation with Dianne Feinstein:

Feinstein brought up all the “ride-share” services from buses to cars that have flooded the city, all without much of anything in the way of rules or regulations. She’s seen the numbers showing there are 4,000 to 6,000 ride-share cars operating in San Francisco, most of which seem to be tooling around in the core of the city.

It’s clear that City Hall is not paying attention to what’s happening on the streets. It doesn’t even seem to care. There are no attempts at better traffic control, no crackdowns on double-parked service cars dropping off and picking up fares.

Remember when Lyft and Uber kept telling us they were helping take cars off the road?  That was one of their selling points.  Along with safetyreliability and all the other claims we now know are bullshit.  In the year that I’ve been driving the streets of San Francisco, I’ve seen traffic get worse each month.  In fact, the Bay Area now has the second worst traffic in the country.

To further solidify this correlation, Uber just announced they have 20,000 active “partners” in the Bay Area.  And while a huge majority of Uber drivers also run the Lyft app, there are plenty of Lyft drivers who don’t drive for Uber, which jacks up the number of private vehicles for hire in the region.

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Compare those figures with the 1900 taxi medallions issued by the SFMTA.  Which, despite all the gross misinformation about the medallion system, simply means there can only be 1900 cabs in service at any given time.

Sometimes it seems like every four-door sedan on the road has a U placard in their window or a glowing pink mustache on their dashboard.  Or both.  And yet, Uber still emails me every day, reminding me of their bonuses for referring new drivers.  Lyft continues to recruit drivers as well, including a recent campaign that offered a thousand dollars to existing drivers and their friends who signed up to drive.  As you can imagine, it set off a feeding frenzy that comically blew up in everybody’s face.

Since Uber and Lyft seem committed to flooding the city’s streets with even more untrained and underinsured drivers to satisfy San Franciscans unquenchable need for frictionless transportation, you can’t help but ponder the unforeseen consequences.  Beyond the traffic jams. Beyond the gridlock.  Beyond the pyramid schemes.  Beyond the tragedy of the commons.

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