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SF wants access to Uber and Lyft data to tackle traffic congestion

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Traffic is seen backed up along Mission Street in San Francisco, Calif. Friday, October 28, 2016 as commuters try to make their way onto the Bay Bridge following a major weather-related crash. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

Two San Francisco government groups are taking aim at traffic congestion allegedly caused by ride-hail companies Uber and Lyft.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin on Tuesday introduced resolutions at both the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, which he chairs, and also at the San Francisco Board of Supervisors calling on state legislators to grant cities the ability to peek at trip data from ride-hail companies.

Mayor Ed Lee quickly signaled his support for the resolution Tuesday.

“I think asking for data is good, and that data should inform us in how to relieve that (traffic) congestion,” he told the San Francisco Examiner.

That data is sent to the California Public Utilities Commission, but for years they have shielded it from public view.

The CPUC granted confidentiality of trip data to Uber and Lyft after the companies argued the data could be used by one another to gain a competitive advantage.

Requests for data “continue to be denied by the CPUC,” Peskin told the transportation authority board on Tuesday.

Both the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and the SFCTA have repeatedly asked the CPUC for Uber and Lyft trip data, and were denied.

He said that transportation officials believe the surge of Uber and Lyft drivers may be impacting congestion in San Francisco, but “we need to back up the anecdotal experiences citywide.”

The resolution, authored by Peskin and co-sponsored at the Board of Supervisors by Supervisor Sandra Fewer, argues that trip data is necessary to see just how much impact the nearly 50,000 active Uber and Lyft drivers in San Francisco are having on traffic.

The resolution was partially spurred by a recent study from lauded transportation analyst Bruce Schaller, which found services like Uber and Lyft caused a net increase of 600 million vehicle miles traveled in New York City — that’s a nearly 3 percent jump in car traffic.

Additionally, Schaller found, services like Uber drew people away from public transit, and wrote those people would otherwise not have taken cabs, because they were too expensive.

Peskin’s resolution cited a number of issues arising from increased Uber and Lyft use, including a drop in BART ridership to SFO, which was attributed to Uber and Lyft usage and first reported by the Examiner.

The mayor also said he tasked Uber CEO Travis Kalanick with reporting crash data of self-driving Uber vehicles to aid public safety.

“It’s an example how innovation is great for The City, but the accountability should be there for public safety as well,” Lee said.

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