Yes. Let’s get that out of the way first. San Francisco traffic in the last few years has gotten a bit horrible and it might be getting worse. Here’s a few things to keep in mind when you wonder why the traffic is so bad:
- Taxis: OK, this isn’t really so much of a problem because San Francisco has had 2500 taxi medallions for years now. The biggest problem from the beginning is that taxi drivers love to stay only in the FiDi/SoMA/Wharf areas where all the money is which caused a problem with people who needed transportation in other areas.
- Lyft/Uber: The answer to getting a non-SFMTA ride in areas where taxi drivers would tell you, Going off shift now. There are currently 45,000 Lyft/Uber drivers driving in San Francisco every day. Many of these are people from outside the City who come in because they work 40-70 hour weeks since that’s their only source of income and living outside San Francisco is the only place they can live when they drive for Lyft/Uber.
- Tech Buses: While they’re universally hated by many in San Francisco they piss people off more than contribute much to the traffic jams we see in San Francisco.
- Chariot and other bus like systems: These come and go every month with someone who’s managed to get enough investment to give them a shot in the arm to disrupt the travel industry. Oh dear. They tend to drive worse than Lyft/Uber drivers from my experience and they appear to disrupt traffic quite a bit considering they only are out during rush hours.
- Commuters: I didn’t think there would be that many of them, but in the mornings there are tons coming into the City and in the evenings there are tons leaving the City. Not to point fingers, but I see BMW’s, Mercedes, Audis and Lexus’ [Lexi?] as the majority of these cars.
- Bikes: C’mon, I have to add them in. They frequently drive downtown like they own the street and shoot in and out of cars with a total disregard for the welfare of pedestrians or people driving a vehicle that is more than capable of turning them into hamburger if they can’t move out of the way fast enough.
It is really getting bad to say the least. Even out in the Suburbs of San Francisco, or the Sunset District we’re starting to see more traffic as more people like to get away from the hustle and bustle of downtown, but don’t have a car so they come out here to visit or even move out here because it’s more peaceful.
A few years ago traffic was bad, but not as bad as it is today and the problem I’ve seen is that it’s only going to get worse more likely. I say that because now that the big news is all about how driverless cars are going to disrupt the rideshare industry which of course the rideshare industry was built to disrupt the taxi industry there’s a few things people who know nothing about this industry haven’t noticed.
Driverless car technology is the new Kool-Aid styled drink for techies because, well, it’s a tech thing. I have to admit that I did work for a company as a test driver for these cars and they have come a long way since I started, but they aren’t reading much of the data from what goes on in the rideshare industry.
One company, Cruise Automation posted a recent video of a night time drive with one of their driverless cars that lasts almost an hour and a half. I have to admit that I was pretty impressed with the video, but there are a few things that aren’t mentioned because it’s showing a car driving around downtown San Francisco simulating stops that rideshare drivers do. The problem is in the high speed they show only four stops in the almost hour and a half video in downtown San Francisco. These four stops equal 2 pick ups on 2 drop offs. To do this within an hour and a half isn’t workable in San Francisco. On a bad night in downtown SF you could do 3 pick ups and drop offs downtown within an hour and on a good night you could do 4-5 of the same within an hour. 2 pickups and drop offs within an hour and half would drive the riders crazy.
Currently, according to the California DMV, driverless cars can move at a speed of no more than 25mph. This is fine since that is the general speed limit in San Francisco, but, how often do cars really obey the speed limit? The cars can’t travel on freeways which are frequently used by all of the above mentioned traffic contributors to shave time off trips, so currently the driverless cars are at a disadvantage.
I also have yet to see a driverless car [any driverless car, I don’t want to seem like I’m picking on Cruise] properly pull over to pick someone up. After seeing the progress that has been made I suspect they will find a way to do this in the future, but right now that’s still a sticking point and especially in parts of San Francisco where there simply is no place to pull over you’ll be stuck with slow cars double parking to pick up or drop off passengers and then who will the police officer write a ticket to?
San Francisco is growing like a balloon that is overfilled and one day soon it will likely pop due to any number of things. It’s very hard to get around in the City anymore even for someone like me who’s been driving around here for the past 30+ years. I can’t remember the last time my wife and I have gone somewhere outside the Sunset District in San Francisco other than our monthly trip to take our daughter to a play day in the Mission which we drop her off in the morning before everyone’s awake on the weekend.
I honestly wish I had an answer to this problem, but other than regulation which limits the number of cars or an increase in better public transportation [which is always a loss to the city that provides it] I don’t see an answer. I do think that some people need to see the problems inherent in the direction some people are trying to push things right now.