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The Future of Rideshare in San Francisco

I’ve wanted to say something and bit my tongue several times, but I have to get this out there. This is an example of tech gone bad and I feel the need to say something about this because while the news writes articles about it they don’t contact someone like me or my Facebook buddy Michael Gumora [the first rideshare driver] to get our input.

Ridesharing/Ride hailing/Uber/Lyft whatever you want to call it is a money pit that’s losing. It’s become something that everyone needs and wants, but it is simply not sustainable because the companies are going after markets that aren’t sustainable to begin with. 

Currently, Uber and Lyft are attacking the public transportation system. The problem with that is in every city in the United States, if not the world public transport is government subsidized. It never turns a profit. Going after a market that doesn’t make money to begin with is a stupid idea and especially when you can’t figure out a way to make money at doing it. 

Let me give you an example. Currently in San Francisco, the home town of Uber and Lyft there’s a major fare war between the two. To be honest in every city there’s a major fare war even if Uber, the most widely distributed rideshare company is the only business in town. They want to pull in riders and give them an awesome price so they’ll buy in and give up their cars.

In San Francisco, giving up your car isn’t too hard to do even if you live on the edges of the city because our SFMTA, as bad as everyone says it is still will pick you up and bring you where ever you need to go. If you need to leave the city it’s pretty easy to get a hook up between MUNI and BART or AC Transit or SamTrans. You can even get a Clipper Card that will work on all of these if you’ve got the money to spare.

Here’s a problem. As I mentioned previously, none of these turn a profit. Uber and Lyft are trying to pull people away from government subsidized transport systems without having a way for themselves to make money. Sure, there’s UberPOOL and Lyftline where you can stack riders together, but that still doesn’t turn a profit for either company.

Neither Lyft nor Uber has made a dime in profit since they started yet they are still getting investors to keep them afloat. Uber even admitted to losing $1,000,000/week just on UberPOOL in San Francisco in order to try and get ahead. The long shot game these companies are pushing towards is driverless cars. OK, I worked for one of the companies testing driverless cars and they’re coming along pretty good to be honest, but currently I’ve only seen a high speed hour and a half video of a car in driverless mode. Cool, it’s very cool, but what happens if there’s a problem with the car at an hour and thirty one minutes? What will be the acceptable failure rate of a driverless car? Once every week? Month? Year? Government will the the one to decide and it’s not going to go well for the companies building the cars. In California the DMV has specified that any company working with driverless cars must hit 4.5 million miles in driverless mode before they can even think of removing the driver, but again, you hit the mark, but how often will a problem pop up?

I asked once and was told that they were thinking of putting a big red button in the back that the passenger could hit if there was a problem. Here’s the problems with that:

  • Have you ever watched cartoons? Big Red Button. Someone will push it…especially if it says do not push unless there is an emergency.
  • People riding in a driverless car will tend to trust the car and not pay attention to what the car is doing. If you’re one of those who won’t trust it you won’t book a ride, but if you do you’re not going to pay attention to what’s going on and just sit there with your glass of champagne and laughing about what the poor people are doing. Seriously, check out this video of what people think driverless cars of the future will be like.

Perhaps I’ve moved forward a bit too fast. We don’t have driverless cars yet even though that’s the future. Let’s step back and take a look at today. Uber and Lyft just aren’t sustainable. Let me explain why. I did a little math today. I went out this morning and drove during morning rush. Two hours and pulled in about $60. For a driver, $30/hour isn’t bad, but throughout the rest of the day it doesn’t stack up like that. During those two hours I gave four rides and Uber lost $32.67 because they now tell the driver what the rider pays and gives a complete break down and they subsidize rides through surge guarantees in certain areas. Lyft does the same thing, but it’s a lot more convoluted in such a way that they can find a way to not pay you the guarantee.

Uber has a flat rate program that it offers some riders that if you google uber flat rate san francisco you might get a sign up page if Uber hasn’t sent you an email offering you the deal. For $40/month all your UberPOOL rides are $2.99 and UberX rides are $6.99 up to a ride that is normally $20. If you take a ride that say costs $25 you’d pay $5 + your $2.99 Pool/$6.99 UberX price. Drivers on the other hand are paid per mile and per minute so it doesn’t affect them and if a driver tells you it does then report them immediately. Because of this Uber loses money. Lyft is competing with them so they lower their prices and also are losing money.

As I mentioned before, neither company has turned a profit. Now here’s where it gets interesting. General Motors has invested half a billion dollars in Lyft and has a spot on their Board of Directors. GM even made an offer to buy Lyft as the news previously reported, but Lyft rejected the offer. GM also purchased Cruise Automation last year that is working on driverless cars. Now Google’s driverless car company, Waymo has partnered with Lyft to provide cars. Google and General Motors have a few extra bucks that Uber doesn’t have and I can just assume that Travis Kalanick is sweating a bit these days. News reports have said that Uber lost $2 Billion in 2015 and between $2.8-$3.8 Billion in 2016. Current reports have suggested that Uber is hemorrhaging $1 billion every three months this year with Uber only sitting on $11.8 billion in actual capital.

The future does not look bright for Uber. I am guessing that Google who likes to toss money around will eventually purchase Lyft and it will be a game over man for Uber. Uber has had too much bad press lately and pulling in riders by subsidizing rides at a loss is no way to stay in business. I personally want to get out of the game because when I started drivers were getting paid $3.50/mile and today it’s $1.15 [or $1.10 for UberPOOL]. Even though Uber is still losing money, the 45,000 drivers who come to San Francisco every day to participate in the rideshare fiasco are starting to turn away, hopefully this blogging thing I’ve been doing for years will finally start to make me some money. 

If you’re a reporter working for a news agency please contact me. I’d be happy to talk to you and I can even hook you up with other drivers who’ve been involved in this for a long time.

Winter In San Francisco

It looks like winter has finally arrived in San Francisco. Winter here is different that in other parts of the country. We don’t get snow [well maybe every 30 years we get an inch], we don’t get ice, we don’t get below zero temperatures, but for some reason you are freezing when it’s 60° outside. It’s a different kind of cold. It’s a very wet cold that soak through to the bone and there are a few things you have to keep in mind.

If you have a fireplace check to see if you can close the flu. I have to do that today because even though we have our fireplace blocked off with our daughter’s toys I was still gettiing hit by 50-60 mph wind gusts blowing down the chimney and around the boxy toys blocking the fireplace. Make sure the windows are closed because cold air will blow in and if have your heater on it’s just sucking the heat out the window. If you have gas heating, use it. It’s cheap compared to electric space heaters and will keep your PG&E costs down. It will also warm the whole house and not just a room. Don’t use your fireplace, especially if you’ve closed the flue as it will heat only the one room and might flow over a bit to a closer room. Things like this will make your home life more comfortable. It’s also more eco-friendly not to use your fireplace.

When you have to leave your house, always bring a small umbrella. It might be clear when you leave, but an hour into it you’ll be hit by a downpour. You’ll also have to make sure you wear layers just the rest of the year, but it’ll be time to pull out the sweaters and other long sleeve shirts. Think of how the people dress on the TV shows in New York. You’ll want that. You might sweat a bit on your way in, but trust me, you’ll be warm.

If you’re one of the lucky few that gets to drive into work you’ve got another thing to deal with and that is the manhole covers on hills. I haven’t been out today, but I’m sure with the rain that’s been coming down that we have a few manhole covers being lifted up by too much water and flooding the streets as it rolls down the hill. You won’t need to sandbag your house if you live in an area like this unless it’s a heavy downpour and you live in the downward corner houses. The streets are also not very even so you’ll get puddle build up especially near corner drains that get blocked with pine needles and leaves being blown off the trees. I would suggest you keep to the middle lanes when driving. I remember a horrible experience I had when driving in San Rafael one winter where I was driving and underpass and saw a line of water all the way across and thought to myself…PUDDLE JUMPING TIME! Turns out as I speed up the water was over three feet deep and spewed everywhere soaking my engine and stalling out my car. Luckily I had time to get off to the side, but this was before cell phones so I just put on my blinkers and luckily a tow truck came by and took my AAA card and helped me out.

Another thing you’ll need to think about is power outages. Even in San Francisco where it gets wet and windy, but not as bad as the North Bay we get power outages. If it happens after you go to bed then your alarm doesn’t go off and you’re late for work. You’ll get up and have no power to cook yourself breakfast unless you’ve got a gas stove [we don’t]. It helps to have one of those butane burners on hand if the powers out for awhile. Don’t open your refrigerator or freezer very often to make sure you keep things cold. The frozen stuff will stay frozen for a day or so, but your refrigerator might get warm because it’s used more often within 12 hours. It’s also nice to have an old style oil burning lamp. I have my grandmothers for when we’re sitting in a room together, but we also have several rechargeable very bright lights that will last for 12 hours we can carry around with us. It’s kind of interesting showering and shaving in the dark with nothing but a bright LED light to brighten the room. We also have a gas grill outside that we can cook on if it’s not a downpour. If it is we should think about getting an awning to cover it.

If you need to kill time hopefully your iPhone/iPad/Tablet/SmartPhone has 3G or 4G that can pick up a connection. I learned how to turn my iPhone into an alarm clock with out it buzzing with every email or tweet I get. Just be careful that you don’t overuse your time or you’ll have to pay big time. I always kind of liked the quite during a power outage. It just makes me feel like I’m not being attacked by electrical energy from all the devices in the house. The power outages only last about four hours, usually less unless it’s an earthquake then it could be 12 hours without power. I have some friends who own a Victorian they restored to its original form so if they get a power outage they light the gas ceiling lamps and are fine. Most of their appliances are gas powered which saves them money and keeps them going during a blackout. Just a little something to think about.

Yes, winter is the magical time of Christmas, but there’s nothing magical about living in a freezing house or working in a freezing office. I do like coming home from work and opening the door and feeling heat hit my face. To me that’s the magical part of winter for me.

Why Being a Meteorologist Sucks in San Francisco

Louis Black once said that the best job in the world would be the weatherman in San Diego, “How’s the weather today Bob?…Nice.” Now I don’t want to put down our local meteorologists [the new way to de-sexify weatherman], but our people who handle the weather have their work cut out for them and they should get paid more than the same people in San Diego where it’s nice.

I love my weather app on my iPhone and since my wife is from the East Coast I’ve learned that the Weather Channel is sacred to them back there. Whenever someone from the East Coast comes to SF they always want to watch the Weather Channel for some reason. I always tell them you can watch, but don’t expect them to get it right all the time.

San Francisco has four micro-climates, The Fog Belt out by the beach, the Banana Belt out in the Mission, The Wind tunnel of downtown and I’m not a meteorologist, so I don’t remember the name of the fourth, but I believe it’s on the Bay side of the city. When I lived out in the Mission district for six years I don’t think I put on a sweatshirt once unless I was traveling over the hills to get to my parents house in the Sunset where I gladly live now. Here in the Sunset I sometimes get to wear a short sleeve shirt, but it’s usually under several layers because the morning start out cold and wet and sometimes actually warm up so you have to shed your layers of clothes until around 2-3pm when the wind starts to kick up and then you put on heavier clothes if you have to spend time outdoors at all.

Meteorologists always have to give a forecast for the coasts and inlands because you can see as much as a 40° difference in weather. When I go to work it’s cold and wet out here in the late morning and when I get to work in Marin it’s bright and sunny. It was warm there today and for once they got it right. It was supposed to be hot on Friday, but then the wind changed direction and it got cooler and foggier. Then yesterday it was supposed to be heavy fog at the coasts and it was more like an overcast day with high clouds, at least in the Sunset. Richmond District may have been worse.

We all know that the best way to spot a tourist in San Francisco is anyone you see downtown in Summer in shorts. May, if we’re lucky and then usually September & October are the times for wearing your tank tops and shorts [usually]. Sometimes like when we had the big el Niño in the late 90’s we had to wear our winter coats in July and I was grilling in shorts and a tank top on New Year’s Eve. There’s a lot of things that screw with our weather here, but it’s mostly the winds on the coast and the hills. I called my wife from work today to see how things where going, “It’s cold and wet”. I didn’t really want to tell her I was basking in 78° bright sun in Marin, so I just left that out, but she likes the fog here anyway.

Predicting the weather is a hit or miss option in San Francisco so make sure the next time you listen to a weather report to cut your weatherperson a little slack. If they could control the weather they wouldn’t care what you think because they’d be Gods. Oh and contrary to popular belief, Mark Twain never said, The coldest summer I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.

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