Uber Vehicles are Not Taxis, Even When They Want To Be

A June 16 vote by the San Francisco MTA to improve safety will allow taxis, along with bicycles and Muni buses, but not ride-hailing services to make turns onto the downtown's main thoroughfare, Market Street, has upset San Francisco-based Uber.

2 minute read

June 18, 2015, 8:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid

Vintage Taxi

pisaphotography / Shutterstock

"The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA) Board of Directors unanimously approved a series of simple changes designed to reduce the number of collisions and speed transit travel on the city’s busy main boulevard," reports Michael Cabanatuan of the San Francisco Chronicle. Italics added, as those "simple changes" have greatly upset the hometown ride service giant, Uber.

The turning prohibitions onto Market between Eighth and Third streets are part of a plan known as Safer Market Street intended to help the city achieve its Vision Zero goal of zero deaths by 2024.

“The only way to drastically reduce the number of collisions is to drastically reduce the number of vehicles,” said Tom Maguire, the agency’s director of Sustainable Streets. “That’s the purpose of this project. It is not about taxi regulations. It is not about Uber.”

While primarily a safety measure for pedestrians and cyclists, the plan is also intended to speed transit service on Market Street that carries a mix of buses and streetcars. See Mass Transit article.

Under the plan, drivers will be unable to turn onto Market Street between Eighth and Third streets...Uber officials objected to the plan because it would allow taxis on Market Street — and in the transit-only lanes — while ride services such as Uber and Lyft would have to abide by the turning restrictions like all other private vehicles.

The vote pleased the editor of Beyond Chronicle, Randy Shaw, who editorialized prior to the vote:

A vote in favor of car restrictions continues the remarkable progress Mid-Market has made since Twitter moved to the area; by increasing pedestrian and bicycle safety and making sidewalk dining more desirable, it is a vital step in Mid-Market’s positive transformation.

"Nearly three hours of public comments — almost all of them in support of the plan — preceded the board’s unanimous vote," writes Cabanatuan. "Supporters of transit, bicycling and walking all spoke up for the plan, saying it would make Market Street safer. Taxi drivers, eager for a leg up on the ride services, also cheered the plan, and jeered Uber."

Representatives from Uber, as one would expect, were not happy at seeing their Market Street access "disrupted."

“If eliminating right turns is making Market Street safer, then all vehicles should be banned from making right turns,” said Wayne Ting, Uber’s San Francisco general manager, who alleged taxis were being given preferential treatment.

However, the exception given to taxis is consistent with others the industry enjoys, such as the ability to use the new red transit lanes.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015 in San Francisco Chronicle

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