The massive influx of visitors in San Francisco has wreaked havoc on the streets in the form of increased traffic, road closures and unexpected protests. (Ekevara Kitpowsong/ Special to S.F. Examiner)

The massive influx of visitors in San Francisco has wreaked havoc on the streets in the form of increased traffic, road closures and unexpected protests. (Ekevara Kitpowsong/ Special to S.F. Examiner)

Battles on the streets before the Big Game

http://www.sfexaminer.com/category/the-city/sf-news-columns/i-drive-sf/

Last weekend, the No. 1 topic of conversation in my cab was the upcoming Super Bowl. Most passengers were curious how the Big Game is going to affect taxi business. So far, I’ve maintained a wait-and-see approach, but with a massive influx of visitors, street closures and numerous unforeseen factors at play, a certain amount of speculation is to be expected.

After shelling out six figures, Uber secured an exclusive deal with the NFL that gave them a dedicated staging area at Levi’s Stadium. Which, it turns out, is actually farther from the stadium entrance than the drop-off zone for taxis.

Things might be a little quiet at Uber’s “special rider lounge,” though, and not just because they’ve rebranded their logo and users may have a hard time finding the app on their phones now, but allegedly, 9,000 Uber drivers are planning to protest the latest fare cuts by “shutting the highways down” on Sunday. According to various Facebook posts, pissed-off drivers are coming all the way from L.A. to wreak havoc on the 101 and 280.

This turn of events would suggest those drivers who decide to cross the picket lines (oh, the irony!) will rake in the big bucks. If they’re able to get through the congestion, that is.

In last Sunday’s edition of The Chronicle, there was an article about the potential transportation showdown, the title of which was cleverly reworded for their website: “The real Super Bowl battle: Uber vs. taxis vs. Lyft.” Regurgitating all the same platitudes, it reads like a playground taunt, the troublemaker egging on each contender with the chant: “Fight! Fight! Fight!”

Since the media loves this hackneyed image of the “angry cabbie,” they should have no problem embracing the outraged Uber driver. But so far, most journos seem reluctant to criticize their preferred method of transportation. Conflicts of interest be damned …

Perhaps a truly committed protester will torch a car obtained through Uber’s predatory leasing program right there on The Embarcadero for the whole world to see. Then we’d have a real story!

On top of all this Uber vs. Uber vs. Uber nonsense, many activists are taking advantage of the extra attention from the Super Bowl to expose local humanitarian crises.

Last Saturday, during the opening of Super Bowl City, there was a Black Lives Matter march demanding justice for the unjustified shooting of Mario Woods by San Francisco police that encountered a combat-ready police presence “protecting” the corporate sponsored event with assault rifles and full body armor.

The uproar over the alleged mistreatment of the homeless by City Hall is another source of discontent.

As I worked the DJ clubs last weekend, cruising up Division from Folsom Street to Public Works, and then later circling the block in an epic ride from Mighty to 150 San Bruno, I saw a significantly smaller number of tents on the sidewalks than in previous
weeks.

Word is the Department of Public Works is removing tents and pushing the homeless away from the camera’s eye. Meanwhile, new tents are being distributed by good samaritans Shaun Osburn and (fellow cab driver on hiatus) Tara Spalty.

Elsewhere, mischievous vandals are taking out their frustration, albeit creatively, on the statues placed around town by the NFL to commemorate certain landmarks.

When I first read they’d installed one of these monstrosities in Alamo Square Park, I messaged Heather Rosner, Art Wrangler at Joy Gallery, whose Silken Windhound is quite popular in the dog play area there. She relayed chatter she’d heard that the statue didn’t stand a chance.

And sure enough, after suffering continued abuse, most if comical, the NFL unceremoniously removed the statue.

Considering all the ballyhoo over the Super Bowl coming to San Francisco, it might seem there’s more at stake on the streets this weekend than on the field at Levi’s. Yet I no doubt disappointed several folks hoping for the usual “angry cabbie” histrionics by responding to the prospective snafu with a unequivocal, “Meh.”

– Am I worried about Super Bowl weekend? Not really.

– Will the Uber and Lyft drivers who aren’t protesting create massive traffic congestion? Probably.

– Will Uber rip people off with surge pricing in the process? Almost certainly.

– Will we make decent money? I sure hope so.

But as far as the rest of the drama …

Hey, we’re cab drivers. We’ll figure out the logistics of the various clusterfucks, adjust our movements accordingly, report observations to each other to create new strategies and do what we always do: move people around The City.

Kelly Dessaint is a San Francisco taxi driver. Write to him at piltdownlad@gmail.com and @piltdownlad.

I Drive SFKelly DesssaintLyftSan FranciscoSuper Bowl 50taxitransportationUber

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