(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Court rules Uber must turn over data on driver congestion, double parkers to San Francisco

City sought information from company to help respond to traffic impacts

Just how dangerous is Uber in San Francisco? The City is about to find out.

Uber must turn over data on topics including illegal parking, dangerous driving and what incentives are offered to lure drivers from across the Bay Area after failing to block a subpoena from City Attorney Dennis Herrera.

A California appeals court rejected an appeal from Uber on Friday to block that subpoena, which asked for four years of records in eight categories.

San Francisco transportation officials have long sought Uber and Lyft data to help ease traffic woes, among other problems on city streets. Uber and Lyft vehicles are responsible for half of all of The City’s growth in traffic congestion, one city study showed, and the vehicles are often cited as a hazard for bicyclists as drivers swoop into bike lanes to pick up and drop off passengers.

Uber, however, has consistently refused to turn its data over.

Lyft agreed to comply with the subpoena from Herrera’s office in February last year. Uber did not.

“Uber is not above the law,” Herrera said in a statement. “The City has legitimate concerns about the company’s impact on traffic, disability access and safety on our roadways. This court order affirms that Uber should have provided this information more than a year ago, like Lyft did. Enough of the stalling and delay tactics. San Franciscans deserve to know if Uber is following the law and how their business is impacting this city.”

Uber declined to comment. The decision was first reported by Bloomberg News.

Uber and Lyft’s traffic data is regularly sent to the California Public Utilities Commission, but the regulator agreed to shield it from public view after the companies argued the data could be used by others in the industry to gain competitive advantages.

The City Attorney’s Office is empowered to issue subpoenas when it suspects a violation of city law. The City Attorney’s Office told the court it was concerned Uber violated state nuisance law, underpaid its drivers, allowed its drivers to illegally park and to drive in a dangerous fashion.

In particular, according to the Friday decision, Herrera was concerned with “the distance driven by Uber drivers prior to commencing a shift, after media reports that Uber incentivizes drivers to drive as much as 200 miles or more before driving for an additional 12 to 16 hours, crowding the City’s streets with unfamiliar and extremely fatigued drivers.”

In its appeal to the court, Uber argued any investigation by Herrera would hinder state regulators’ ability to manage Uber on city streets. The court disagreed with this argument, writing in the Friday decision that “As is evident, we do not and cannot know at this juncture what the City Attorney will choose to pursue, let alone whether or not any legal action it undertakes will hinder, aid, or have no impact upon the CPUC in its regulation of [Uber].”

Indeed, Herrera’s investigation could even aid the CPUC’s efforts to regulate Uber, Justice Ioana Petrou wrote in the decision.

joe@sfexaminer.com

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