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SF takes Uber, Lyft to court for GPS traffic data

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The City Attorney’s Office issued subpoenas Monday for the two ride-hail giants’ traffic data, in an effort to help the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency manage city traffic. (Jessica Christian/2016 S.F. Examiner)
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City Attorney Dennis Herrera is gunning for Uber and Lyft’s data.

The City Attorney’s Office issued subpoenas Monday for the two ride-hail giants’ traffic data, in an effort to help the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency manage city traffic.

Groups as diverse as the SFMTA, San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and even transportation advocacy nonprofits have previously raised concern that swarms of ride-hail vehicles — numbered as high as 45,000 in The City — may be a cause of congestion on city streets and a potential safety hazard as well.

“No one disputes the convenience of the ride-hailing industry, but that convenience evaporates when you’re stuck in traffic behind a double-parked Uber or Lyft,” Herrera said in a statement.

On the whole, Herrera filed administrative subpoenas seeking four years of records in eight categories, according to the City Attorney’s Office, including miles and hours logged by drivers, incentives, driver guidance and training, accessible vehicle information and services provided to residents of every San Francisco neighborhood.

The SFMTA has long sought this information from Uber and Lyft’s regulators, the California Public Utilities Commission, but has been repeatedly refused — and the SFMTA has no regulatory power to compel the release of this information.

Herrera’s legal remedy comes shortly after Mayor Ed Lee’s announcement last month that he would seek the same data through negotiations and incentives to help Uber and Lyft drivers in a pilot program to potentially use city curb space.

Political consultant Jim Ross noted that said it’s not likely Lee and Herrera are working together to receive the data.

Ross said he’s seen the City Attorney’s Office and the Mayor’s Office not communicate on more controversial issues, especially when the two entities react differently.

Ultimately, “If the mayor would like to move a different agenda” on this issue, Ross said, “it’s very likely that they’re not talking.”

Neither office commented on the other’s effort.

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