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Uber and Lyft use at SFO increases six-fold in two years, BART loses ridership

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San Francisco International Airport. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

BART’s train line to the San Francisco International Airport is losing riders and losing money.

And that culprit is competition from the private sector, BART staff said.

Uber and Lyft in particular have seen their ridership at SFO rise by almost six times over from 2014 to 2016, according to data provided by SFO to the San Francisco Examiner.

BART officials told the agency’s Board of Directors at its regular meeting Thursday that increased Uber and Lyft ridership led to less passengers taking BART in 2016.

“We believe Uber and Lyft are impacting our ridership,” Carter Mau, executive manager of BART’s office of planning and budget, told the San Francisco Examiner outside the meeting.

BART’s SFO ridership was discussed during a presentation at the Board of Directors meeting. BART’s overall ridership rate of growth “rapidly slowed,” according to a staff presentation. In October overall ridership was down to 438,000 trips for the average weekday, 1.7 percent less than the same time the year prior.

That decline led to BART being $3.6 million under budget for the year to date in October. The agency’s operating budget was $42.9 million.

But the SFO line took a substantial hit, performing 9.6 percent under budget thanks to competition from Uber and Lyft, Mau said.

The numbers back him up.

According to data provided by SFO, Uber and Lyft ridership increased since the ride-hail services were officially cleared for use at the airport in 2014.

In October 2014, Lyft picked up and dropped off at SFO 16,784 times in October 2014, the earliest data available. In October 2014 Uber picked up and dropped off at SFO 80,995 times.

Those numbers exploded by 2016.

Lyft was used at SFO in Oct. 2016 108,388 times, and Uber was used 469,823 times. Traditional taxis, by comparison, made 139,465 trips departing SFO that same month. SFO does not keep data on taxi drop-offs.

“We saw the growth [of ridership]start to level off in 2015,” Mau told the Examiner. “Uber and Lyft have changed the environment.”

Directors asked Mau specifically about Uber and Lyft because of an East Bay Times report that showcased declining BART to Oakland International Airport ridership.

Mau told the board that groups traveling to and from the airport save money using ride-hails, whereas with BART they have to pay individual fares.

BART staff are looking into crafting group discounts, Mau said.

BART board director Robert Raburn was adamant that BART find a way to compete.

“The solution is not cuts or draconian measures, it’s to grow ridership,” he said.

He added, “We have to be more nimble.”

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