Ride-sharing, biking, bussing – when it comes to getting around, there’s a growing menu of ala carte wheels to choose from. Can we curb our cars for good?
Tom Nolan, Chairman of the Board, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency
Jeff Hobson, Acting Executive Director, TransForm
Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez, Staff Reporter, San Francisco Examiner
Padden Murphy, Head of Public Policy & Business Development, Getaround
Chakib Ayadi, Executive Board Member, San Francisco Taxi Workers Alliance
Ozzie Arce, driver for Lyft
Speakers at this Event
Executive Board Member, San Francisco Taxi Workers Alliance
Acting Executive Director, TransForm
Head of Public Policy & Business Development, Getaround
Chairman of the Board, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency
Staff Reporter, San Francisco Examiner
Greg Dalton: I'm Greg Dalton. And today on Climate One, we're discussing, getting around a growing Bay Area while also reducing carbon pollution. The economy is thriving. San Francisco streets are more jammed than ever. New condo towers were sprouting all over the city and roads are blocked for construction of a new subway, the Transbay Terminal and a lot more. Is gridlock the new normal, or will traffic start moving again when the construction boom ends?
Over the next hour, we will look at personal mobility and the many new choices people have these days, including peer-to-peer car-sharing services such as Getaround, and new app based services such as Lyft, Uber and SideCar. We're going to have that conversation today in two parts. In the second half of the hour, we will welcome Alyssa. For the second half of the hour, we will welcome four guests, including a taxi driver, a Lyft driver, a reporter, and a car-sharing executive. First, we'll hear from two transportation experts. Jeff Hobson is the acting Executive Director at TransForm, a transit advocacy group based in Oakland; and Tom Nolan is the Chair of the San Francisco Metropolitan Transit Agency, the government entity that runs Muni and more. Please welcome them to Climate One.
Greg Dalton: So Tom Nolan, let's begin with you. As the government person here, there's a lot of gridlock in the Bay Area, there always has been. It seems to be a lot more now. When is that going to end?
Tom Nolan: Well, the forecasts on the economy are so strong here, the job creation is amazing, and the forecasts are that within about 20 years, we'll be well over a million people in the city. Right now it has been 830,000, so the growth is going to continue. I think the question is how smart we are about how we deal with it, both in terms of buildings and transit, transportation options. So what the MTA is all about is trying to look at all the options. We're unique in this country. We believe that every mode of transportation in San Francisco is actually under the jurisdiction of the MTA.
It used to be a parking commission, the traffic and all that. It's all in one place, including bicycles, pedestrians, taxis, all of it, PCOs, garages, everything is there. So we have an extraordinary opportunity to we deal with each piece of this and try to make it much more of a transit-friendly city. And my goal is to see in sometime soon, hopefully, that the very last thing you'll think about when you're going somewhere is getting your own private car because Muni will be so good, reliable, on time, all of that. Efficient bike paths that are safe and perceived that way. Pedestrians areas that are safe. That's the goal. That's what we're working for and to go along with the new developments that are coming.
Greg Dalton: And that sounds like what people who advocate for climate change or concerned about climate change want more density.
Tom Nolan: Right.
Greg Dalton: Because people who walk and bike, they use a lot less carbon pollution. So is the city going to make its carbon reduction goals?
Tom Nolan: Well, I think we are. We've actually in the MTA I'm pleased by the way to acknowledge my colleague here, Joél Ramos, the director is also part of the TransForm staff. We're working towards that goal already and we made a number of big changes. Market Street is a very interesting one, for example. Ten years ago, for every one bicycle out there, there are three cars; it's exactly the opposite now. Because the bicycle improvements are really beginning to take hold there in that present city. It's a very complex arrangement.
The MTA office is at 1 South Van Ness. And that area, if you're familiar with it, it's right there at Market. There's three major developments there and 100 Van Ness just opened. And we're working with all these developers and we're going to get some money out of them for what they’re bringing to us. The population growth will be there, but it's a perfect place for this development. There are a number of muni lines there, the metro is there, but it's a couple blocks away. So that's the kind of development we need to have in the city and we got a number of things like that planned.
Greg Dalton: I think John King wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle, that if there's sort of a main gateway or entry point to San Francisco, that it is that corner. Jeff Hobson, is San Francisco doing enough to be bike friendly, to be transit friendly in your case? You advocate for those sorts of things.
Jeff Hobson: Well, I think San Francisco is doing a lot and could do a lot more. So at TransForm, we believe you can't get ahead, if you can't get around. We want everyone to be able to live in a place where they can afford to get around without having to get behind the wheel of a car every day. And so, we want to see better public transit, better infrastructure for walking and biking, more sidewalks, more bike lanes.
And we are looking at the profusion of new transportation options coming around here in the Bay Area and around the country, and seeing those as a way that we can start making it more possible for more people to get around without driving. So San Francisco has got some good starts on it. We've got the better bike lanes that Tom mentioned on Market Street. Valencia did a Road Diet which Jargon Alert means taking a four-lane road, making it three lanes with bike lanes, tends to make traffic flow even better and safer, and that's working out well. We need to do more of that.
Greg Dalton: Looking around the Bay Area or even the state, who's doing things really well? Do you think that San Francisco, the Bay Area ought to look to for like, "Ah, that's the way to do it"?
Jeff Hobson: I think that it's different for different kinds of improvements that need to happen. So for transit, I would say here in the Bay Area, we're doing some of the best things. Certainly, we have the best transit system west of the Mississippi. Now the people who get on Muni and find that it's packed or get on BART and see how busy it is -- I came over here and got off at Powell --
Greg Dalton: Do we have the only transit system west of the Mississippi? I mean, I'm just trying to think, Denver? I mean, L.A. is trying to catch up.
Jeff Hobson: We certainly have the biggest transit system west of the Bay Area, and I submit that we have the best. I'm a little bit a hometown pride there going on, but I think we have a lot of good assets and we have a lot of ways to build on them. So one of the things San Francisco is trying to do is build some new bus rapid transit corridors on several of the streets that already have good transit and could use better transit. So we need to do more of that, doing some of the same thing in Oakland and San Jose. We need to do more of that.
Greg Dalton: One thing that's happened recently, there's been a lot of building in San Francisco. Jeff Hobson, has that happened near transit? Is it happening in the right place?
Jeff Hobson: I think that's one of the important things that San Francisco can probably learn from some of the other places around the Bay Area. We need to make sure that more people can live close to transit, and there are a lot of good reasons for that. There are climate reasons for that, there is just quality-of-life reasons. I mean, when you asked at the beginning of the show, "How many people got here on transit?" And then you had the audience asking, "Hey, wait a minute, I got here by walking or I got here by biking." There were more people walking or biking than who drove their own cars and that's because of where this is.
Greg Dalton: Cause the people who drive here are still outside, they haven't gotten here yet but that's --
Jeff Hobson: That's maybe one of the reasons. It's also because this is a tough place to drive to and to park to, and it's a lot more sensible of a place to walk or bike or take transit to. And so if we make more places like these, if we make it more possible for more people to live in neighborhoods like these, then we're going to have a positive impact on the climate. And really it's nicer to live in environments like that.
Greg Dalton: Tom Nolan, in reality is that those condos you referenced near Van Ness and Market Street near BART stations, they're more valuable, they cost more. Basically, you got to pay; you got to be well off to enjoy this walking lifestyle.
Tom Nolan: Well, I think the city is getting tougher about the whole thing about affordable housing. The Giants project, for example, recently, they were at 33% originally they're going to do 33% affordable housing. Of course, the definition of affordable is widely... But Supervisor Kim got involved in those 40%, and the people are talking about that's the kind of way to go. What's been happening is the developers have been required to contribute to a fund to build housing somewhere else.
Well, there isn't anywhere else. Really, the ideal - as far as I'm concerned - Market and Van Ness, would be that there would be some market rate and some low-income housing, some senior housing, housing for the disabled, all of that. We can do that. The city can do that. The city can force that and it needs to do that. Too many places have been developed with contributing to a fund, but nowhere to build it.
Greg Dalton: Right. You said earlier, Tom Nolan, that your goal is to get people out of their cars, not to think about cars, but the reality is that everybody listening to this, everybody we're looking at right now has a smartphone in their pocket and all sorts of cool apps. They can get any kind of car and any kind of person or any kind of driver to come right away. So when hopping in a car is easier than ever, how are you going to get people out of cars?
Tom Nolan: Well, I think we're continuing to make it more attractive as we possibly can.
We're buying like 240 new Metro cars, for example. We had opportunities to see a mockup of one of them the other day. They're going to be much better, much more reliable. Currently, the Metro cars break down about an average of every 6,000 miles. The new ones will be almost 60,000 miles. That alone will make a difference. We're hiring 248 new drivers and mechanics to keep the system going. So I want to thank the people of San Francisco who voted for Prop A last year, $500 million. It's the first big proposition like that we had in a long, long time. And then Prop B, another $26 million there, this all adds up and we're putting it to good use. Buying new equipment, making the system more efficient for everyone, and make it more attractive.
I’m on the Caltrain Joint Powers Board as well and what we find is we surveyed our riders and a lot of young people are riding in large part because they can bring their bikes on it. Bicycles are extremely popular in Caltrain. We carry more bikes on a daily basis than any commuter rail in the country and we're about to do more. And they also cite the reason for taking the train is an environmental concern, concern about global warming. They're doing their part. And I'm hopeful that that will be the case with more and more people, that you get on the bus because it's fast, it's better, and it's the right thing to do and you keep another car off the road.
Greg Dalton: It’s also a cultural thing. Some of our Climate One staff here, they ride their bikes. They like it. They feel good; it’s part of the culture. Jeff Hobson, is San Francisco spending that half a billion dollars in the right way?
Jeff Hobson: Well, I think they're making a lot of good investments and that's an important thing to do. Because I think one of the things you talked about, the smart phones and how there's this really explosion of different ways of getting around. And I think it's important for San Francisco and the rest of the jurisdictions around the Bay Area to plan for a future in which there are this growing number of different ways of getting around. That's a good thing particularly for the climate.
Because right now, most people who own a car, own it and they own it as sort of a bulk item. You spend $6000, $10,000 a year on your car. As we move from cars as a bulk commodity to car trips as an individually purchased thing, whether that's in a taxi or a ride hail app or that you decide that you're going to do bike share or that you're going to ride transit. When transportation is that "per use" thing, I think people are smart. People are going to use the right option for the right trip.
Greg Dalton: And let's talk about cost of some of this stuff. We need more infrastructure. This half a billion dollars is a start. Tom Nolan, this city still needs to put a lot more in place from this aging infrastructure. Are people going to cough up more money for that?
Tom Nolan: Well, I think they will, especially when they start seeing some results of their vote. When these new cars start rolling in, you'll see it right away. It’ll make a big difference. New buses are coming. Our fleet is very old. I think when they see that and they see the plan, the mayor had really a task force that's about $10 billion over the next 20 years and identified around $6 billion eventually, and some of that will require votes of the people. But I was very heartened by this past year, that vote and we'll see. Hopefully, we can produce results as quickly enough, so that when there comes another one. Supervisor Weiner wants to bring the vehicle license fee back in lieu of that Prop B from last year which --
Greg Dalton: So that's potentially the ballot in 2016 having a measure to increase registering a car in San Francisco.
Tom Nolan: It could well be. That's the thing that Schwarzenegger, when he became governor --
Greg Dalton: Got him into office, yeah.
Tom Nolan: Yeah, got rid of that. And it's a relatively small amount of money that could do an awful lot of good. That would be a more permanent and a reliable source of funding than Prop B is. We're very grateful for Prop B.
Greg Dalton: Jeff, also, do you think that this money is going to be there, the voters are going to step up?
Jeff Hobson: I think that the history in the Bay Area, in this case, shows that when agencies make a good case for transportation funding, the voters vote for it. I happen to remember the stats from 2000 to 2004; Bay Area voters passed almost ten different transportation measures that raised a total of $17 billion. Most of those all passed by a two-thirds or more margin because of the rules we've got here in California on taxes. But so I think that when agencies can make a good case, voters will vote for it.
Another example - that hopefully will be coming on the 2016 ballot - is BART, looking to put a measure on to improve the cars. I don't know if anybody has noticed that BART cars are occasionally a little bit dirty, and they're kind of packed at rush hour. So this would pay for - we hope - and we're part of the groups trying to push on BART to make sure it's a good measure and it has the right sorts of things in it. But investing in the existing system, making the cars better, making them cleaner, making it possible for them to run more frequently so that basically BART can carry more people, which clearly people in the Bay Area want to be riding, more and more people want to be riding the train.
Tom Nolan: That brings up an issue the Bay Area is facing. We have 27 transit agencies in the nine county Bay Area. That’s an awful lot of transit agencies. And I’ve been a regionalist for a long time, there’s got to be ways of more and more effective cooperation and collaboration among these agencies. I mean, everybody buys the same kind of stuff, fuel and all this. We need to get a sense of urgency about this and really work closer together. The Clipper Cards, that's a good thing. That needs to go farther than it is right now. I guess I'd say that in light of the fact that Congress --, we can expect almost nothing from this Congress.
With the conference of mayors being in San Francisco, we got a lot of talk about local government really being the drivers of innovation and change, and that's really true. As Jeff was saying, the money is coming from the local way more. We're doing our part. We need the feds and the state to step up.
Greg Dalton: We did a whole program recently at Climate One on the Metro Revolution and how -- it's a research out of Brookings and looking at regions as new engines, and how the feds have basically left the building and that Washington is not going to deliver much in terms of financial help as they have in the past. If you're just joining us at Climate One, we're talking about getting around the Bay Area with Tom Nolan, Chair of the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency; and Jeff Hobson, Acting Executive Director of TransForm. I'm Greg Dalton. One more BART question which is, there's talk of another tube for BART, perhaps going to Alameda. Talk about coughing up some big bucks. It took 30 years for the last one. Tom Nolan, is it going to take another 30 years to get another BART tube?
Tom Nolan: I hope not. I hope not.
Greg Dalton: And some of the business groups say we can't wait that long.
Tom Nolan: Well, yeah. Actually, the business community is very strong. Bay Area Council, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, the San Mateo County Development Association, they are very supportive. It won't take 30 years, it’ll take a while. It’ll take a while. I don't know, do you have another perspective on that one?
Jeff Hobson: Decades would be my guess.
Tom Nolan: Is that right?
Jeff Hobson: I don't know how many.
Greg Dalton: Let's go to our lightning round. I just want to ask a quick yes or no question. Tom Nolan, San Francisco should build more parking garages, yes or no?
Tom Nolan: No. Sorry.
Greg Dalton: Tearing down the 280 freeway in Mission Bay will have unintended consequences. Tom Nolan, yes or no?
Tom Nolan: Yes.
Jeff Hobson: Some of them good.
Tom Nolan: Some of them good, some of them not so good.
Greg Dalton: It's one of the mayor's new things, tearing down freeways, tearing down more freeways. We're tearing down dams, we're tearing down freeways. What are we doing around here? Okay. Jeff Hobson, San Francisco planners should have seen gridlock coming when they approved thousands of new housing units?
Jeff Hobson: Yes, and they did.
Greg Dalton: I don't see evidence of that but okay. Bay Area roads are going to get more crowded not less, Jeff Hobson.
Jeff Hobson: Yes.
Greg Dalton: Okay, that was easy. How did they do for the lightning round?
Greg Dalton: Bike sharing, Tom Nolan, started off here. Is that going to expand? Pretty cool thing.
Tom Nolan: It is, yeah. We've approved I think it's 5,000 new bikes, is that right? Yeah, for the Bay Area and San Francisco, most of them. That will be in Oakland and Redwood City as well. So yeah, that's a very good thing.
Greg Dalton: Jeff Hobson, is that something that makes a real dent or is that really does it displace cars or it's just like, "Oh, I'll walk. I would have walked. Otherwise, I'll roll a bike."
Jeff Hobson: To me, bike sharing is part of the whole universe of having lots of options. That's what you really need to do to be able to live a full vibrant life without a car. U.S. cities were mostly built with the assumption that most people would have a car, and we are in the process of reconstructing our cities, rebuilding how we live our lives in ways where we don't have to have a car. So bike share is one of the options that I want to have, that I want my kids to have, that I want my mom to have, to be able to get around in the city, to go along with all of the different other options.
How many individual bike share trips are going to replace a car trip? Probably not that many. That's the evidence from bike share in other parts of the world, other parts of the country. But I think it's one of those things that has to be a piece of making it possible to have a full life without having a car. And I think it's really important with bike share, as well as all of these other sharing kind of apps and services that are coming into existence; we need to make sure they work for everyone. And too often, when these services start, they are mostly pitched, particularly when they start just being run by private companies, they start being pitched at the high end of the income scale. And that's something that we need to fix. That's something that public policy has a lot to do with, that's something where MTA, Tom's agency and the other agencies that control transportation in the Bay Area need to put a focus on is making sure that, whether it's bike share, you make sure that you have pods in low income communities, that you make sure that you do outreach in places, not just in Starbucks, but you do them in the communities where we want to make sure that they get used. So that's an important part of bike share as well as the other sharing economy.
Greg Dalton: I was walking down the street the other day when there was a very well-dressed gentleman, looked like I thought Wall Street, right? And I was surprised, my jaw dropped actually where he walked over, hopped on a bike share, and pedaled off. I was like, "Whoa!" Because there's a certain cultural thing, I mean I've taken bike share and feel a little dorky downtown like, "Oh, I look like a tourist." But you get over that after a while when you start to see other people doing that. You say, "Hey, that's like me. That's okay.”
Jeff Hobson: Friends who work in DC where Capital Bike Share has been for a few years, I was just talking with a friend who used to live here in the Bay Area, been in DC for a while, and he said it has changed the way he gets around. Yes, sometimes it replaces his ten-block walking trip that he might have taken. It also extends how far he can go without having to get in a vehicle of some kind.
A trip that might have taken two transit trips, a bus in the subway or something of the sort, he can take a bike share to go across town. Really, I think of it as expanding our transit service by having people provide -- people get to provide their own motor instead of having to ride somebody else's motor.
Greg Dalton: And burn a few calories along the way. Tom Nolan, a dynamic pricing, we live in a world of dynamic pricing for all sorts of tickets. We're going to see that and it's happening now in parking. It costs more in certain hours of the day to park downtown San Francisco. How is that shaping behavior?
Tom Nolan: Well, actually, it’s considered very successful, the whole system. We have more vacancies. The whole idea of that was the quick turnover so they can place -- people have to go circling around blocks, looking and looking. And our studies have shown this has been very successful in that regard. Beyond that, I'm not sure where we're going to go with that.
Greg Dalton: If you're just joining us, we're talking about getting around the Bay Area at Climate One. Our guests are Jeff Hobson from TransForm and Tom Nolan from the San Francisco Metropolitan Transit Agency. Let's go to audience questions. Welcome.
Male Participant: Hi. So you mentioned the number of different transit agencies that are present in the Bay Area, and there is a lot of problems that happen because these are not necessarily the best integrated. For example, if you're trying to go from the Caltrain to the airport, then you have to take two BART trips if you're in during working hours. And so is there any talk of forcing some transit agencies to either merge or work together more closely to remedy some of these issues?
Greg Dalton: Tom Nolan?
Tom Nolan: The last big attempt that was made by Senator Becky Morgan from Los Altos years ago and it got watered down to a point where nothing really happened. She was trying to see if MTC, Association of Bay Area Governments and the Air-Quality District to all merge and it got watered down just for planning and it was killed because of the local opposition to it because people wanted their own agency, their own thing. It's a worthwhile goal, in my mind, to get agencies working closely together. There are some signs of it, but we could use a lot more than that. Nobody wants to give up the authority.
One woman who was a council member in the San Mateo County told me during that debate about Senator Morgan's bill that she was against it because it would kill her chances of becoming chair of the MTC. I mean, it was that venal and you would think local -- but that's a tough one. But I think if the -- you need a sense of urgency about it and a sense of crisis, a sense of leadership. People will come forward and say, "Yeah, we can do a whole lot better than this." I hope we do.
Greg Dalton: Is climate change -- it cuts across so many things, food, water, it affects regions and humanity in such broad ways, will climate change force some of that parochialism to go away?
Tom Nolan: I think it will help. I hope it will help that. We had the good stuff.
Greg Dalton: That's the good thing about climate.
Tom Nolan: Look at the study. The study recently about the waters rising, the map of the Bay Area, with climate change, what's going to happen? What's going to be underwater and all of that. And we’ve got so much more in common with our neighbors than divides, than loyalties of different counties and cities, and these different transit districts. But I can tell you, from the Caltrain, the three counties involved in this - Santa Clara, San Francisco and San Mateo - and that's extremely difficult to even hold it together because everybody comes in with their own interest. And trying to get folks to rise above a very narrow interest is hard, but not impossible.
Greg Dalton: Tough to get kids to share their toys in the sandbox. Let's go to our next question.
Male Participant: During commute hours, BART cars are pretty full and the trains are coming by pretty rapidly. It's hard for me to imagine BART increasing its commute hour ridership very much. So, is BART near its limit or no?
Tom Nolan: So you guys are more involved with the BART issue --
Jeff Hobson: Sure.
Greg Dalton: Jeff Hobson?
Jeff Hobson: Yes, I think that BART does have a capacity to increase its capacity significantly during commute hours. There are a few things that they can do. One of the most important is having all of the trains that come through actually be ten-car trains instead of eight, nine. That would make a difference. They need a new train control system - Jargon Alert - that can make the trains be able to go more quickly through the tube. Right now, they have to keep a certain amount of spacing so they don't run into each other.
With a better control system, they can run them more quickly. The new cars are going to have three doors instead of two doors on each one. That will make them quicker to get on and off, and get in and out of the stations quicker. So there are a variety of things that BART can do. They’re considering putting exits on both sides of the Embarcadero and Montgomery stations, having you be able to get into the trains from both sides instead of just from one side. So there are variety of things that BART can do to run more people, to be able to move more people through San Francisco.
Greg Dalton: We have to end this portion there with our thanks to Jeff Hobson, Acting Executive Director of TransForm; and Tom Nolan, Chair of the Metropolitan Transit Agency in San Francisco for talking about how we get around a crowded Bay Area. Let's thank them both for this.
Announcer: And now, here’s a Climate One Minute.
Here’s one trend that could help to reduce urban gridlock. Studies show that the number of young adults with a driver’s license is on the decline. There could be any number of reasons that teens have lost interest in getting their wheels. But when Sunil Paul, the founder of SideCar, was here in 2013, he blamed the smartphone.
Sunil Paul: In the past, the automobile was your key to freedom. Your literal key to freedom. You got those keys and now you can go out and do stuff in the world. But today, you know, my almost 12-year-olds, they've got freedom already. They can talk to their friends; they can have a social life. They don't have to be stuck with their dad all the time, because they've got a smartphone. So it's already unlocked a different kind of freedom and mobility. And I think that even when you take it to the point of, "Oh, okay. I really do need to be able to move around in a city and I really do need to get groceries and I really do need to get to a job." All those things will be possible for my kids through their phone.
Announcer: That was Sunil Paul, CEO of the ridesharing service SideCar. Now back to Greg Dalton and the second half of our live program at The Commonwealth Club.
Greg Dalton: Welcome back to Climate One, we’re talking about how we get around the Bay Area and the area of climate change. I’m Greg Dalton. And now we’re joined by four other guests to talk about how we roll in the Bay Area. Chakib Ayadi, is a board member of the San Francisco Taxi Workers Alliance. Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez is a reporter with the San Francisco Examiner and Padden Murphy is head of business development and public policy at Getaround car sharing service. And Ozzy Arce is our driver with Lyft. Please welcome them to Climate One.
Greg Dalton: So Joe Rodriguez, paint the picture for us here. We got a crowded city, lots of cars on the street, is transit getting around the city in the Bay Area gonna get easier anytime soon?
Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez: Well at least here in San Francisco we’re seeing many improved, vastly with the new uniform program. Have a 7% service improvement which I think is one of the biggest service improvements they’ve had in years. We have increased service through these new Ride Hail apps. Folks would flay me alive if I said Ride Share - some folks.
And we still have our taxi system. So, are things getting more crowded, yes if we don’t continue moving forward. Are many planners and many people in transportation saying we’re headed for trouble, yes. But are things moving forward? Yeah.
Greg Dalton: Moving forward slowly. Padden Murphy, your company Getaround is partly based on the premise that there’s too many, there’s car overpopulation. So what are you doing to address car overpopulation?
Padden Murphy: Yeah, so basically what Getaround enables you to do is if you own a car, you can basically turn it into a car share vehicle. So, we have something called Getaround Connect that turns your car into a connected car. So when you’re not using it, other people can use it in the same way they would a traditional car sharing vehicle. So they just download our app and they can find it right and lock it all from the app. So while you’re not using it your car is helping pay for itself and make yourself a little bit of money and it enables someone in your neighborhood to basically get around without having to buy another car and put it in the already as you mentioned overcrowded infrastructure.
Greg Dalton: And the underlying principle of this is that a car is hunk a metal that most people buy and it sits around most of the time, not being used, right. It’s an idle asset sitting there depreciating in your garage. It’s beautiful, it’s nice, you’re proud of it but it’s sitting there depreciating, costing you money even when you’re not using it.
Padden Murphy: Yeah, that’s right. Most people use their car less than 25% of the time. So what the research on car sharing is pretty compelling. It basically shows that every car share vehicle can potentially eliminate nine to 13 other cars from the road. So Getaround’s kind of “aha moment” is pretty simple, right. We have about 250 million personal automobiles in the US. If we convert a fraction of those vehicles in the car share vehicles we can take a pretty huge number of them off the road and put a pretty significant dent in our collective carbon output.
Greg Dalton: Put a dent in Detroit to but we’ll get to that later. Chakib, I wanna ask you about there’s lots of choices for getting around these days, isn’t that a good thing for people?
Chakib Ayadi: Well, it’s a good thing to have a lot of choices and option. And we want all those choices will be good for the customer, for the public for to serve the community and for public safety. But we don’t want to put more cars in the road because that create pollution in our air that we breathe. And that can create asthma or some disease and we don’t want that for our community.
Greg Dalton: And so you believe that Uber, Lyft, SideCar that’s putting more people on the -- more cars on the road, more people inside cars, is that right?
Chakib Ayadi: Yeah, there is a Lyft representative, he claimed that they just put tens of thousands of vehicle on the road and that create congestion obviously and create air pollution.
Greg Dalton: Ozzy Arce, you’re a Lyft driver, you do it full-time do you think that Uber and Lyft are putting more cars on the road in the Bay Area?
Ozzy Arce: I believe that there’ll be more cars put on the road but I also believe that it is up to passengers themselves to dictate or have better judgment on when they’re gonna decide to use the Ride Hail app service as opposed to using the bike or having a walk. I think that’s a big part of why there need to be more cars in the road is because we are the ones that are depending on those cars now.
Greg Dalton: Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez, I wanna ask you. What do we know about, what does the research say about car sharing, ride sharing, with this new app based hail services. Is it putting more cars on the road, more pollution in the air?
Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez: Well, I think that the researchers goes back to when you asked that question is from Susan Shaheen from UC Berkeley, right.
But that particular study doesn’t necessarily look at these new Ride Hail apps specifically the jury is still kind of out on this. That looks more like ride sharing, just kind of older style of ride sharing, right? But when we’re looking at these kind of Ride Hail apps research from both sides will tell you different things. As a reporter, you can be, you have to hedge a lot as you’re writing because there’s folks even today, even today, I was just reading a filing from Uber to the California Public Utilities Commission, they were saying hey, we take so many cars off the road, we do X, Y and Z we’re really helping the climate, you’ve got to make sure that we get as many cars off the road as we are doing. But then you see the taxi folks filed a similar thing to the CPUC, which are the exact opposite. Our studies show that people who are using the Ride Hail apps would have taken the bus, they would have walked, they would have biked, they would have taken a taxi. They wouldn’t necessarily have driven, so they’re not taking cars off the road. We’ve got competing research from both sides.
Greg Dalton: Padden Murphy, you’re not directly competing with Uber, Lyft, et cetera, but your take on sort of this --
Padden Murphy: Sure.
Greg Dalton: --dueling research we don’t really know what the facts are.
Padden Murphy: What we know is that it’s powerful, right? I think if you saw with the premise that we have too many cars and that personal car ownership, particularly in a city like San Francisco is silly. I think that’s a good starting place. So if you look at, first of all Getaround, Uber and Lyft and SideCar, which I think almost every human in the city calls ride sharing. It’s completely compatible.
So the way that I try to look at it and I think that makes a lot of sense is, if you look at the portfolio of use cases that justify you owning a car. If you can get rid of 100% of those use cases through other sustainable options, if that’s, you know, walking hopefully, using bike share, using public transit, using Uber, using Lyft, using Getaround, I think that’s really what we’re looking at. If the enemy is unnecessary personal vehicle ownership then certainly the abundance of choice is not a bad thing. And, the fact that you are seeing more and more Lyft vehicles and more and more Uber vehicles, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a net negative for pollution, right. You’re looking at a higher utilization of vehicles across an increasing number of people. So and you already see in these innovative ride sharing companies, it’s not my job to carry their water but I will. They’re already innovating one-step further in coming out with UberPool and Lyft Line to put more people in those cars rather than less. So that the number of trips are actually shared by, you know, more people rather than, you know, on a one off basis. So, Getaround actually, you know, fits really well into this piece because if -- when we survey our folks, actually they say that the combination of public transit, ridesharing and Getaround enable them to live car free. So we take care of about, you know, 20% to 30% of the time when you really do need a car to go pick up some groceries or head out of town for the weekend where public transit, bike share or an Uber wouldn’t make any sense.
Greg Dalton: How does this affect car makers, a big part of the American economy, is that gonna hurt the economy? What I hear you saying Padden, Padden Murphy is fewer cars used more frequently -- that spells bad news for Detroit.
Padden Murphy: Well it spells bad news for Detroit in the old model maybe. I think looking forward the reality is we have too many cars right now in America. We have too many cars worldwide. You know, Getaround can’t exist unless people own some cars, right, currently. So I think what it means is, so if you have a car in Getaround right now and you share it, on average our owners on Getaround are making about $500 a month. Some people make a thousand, $1,500 a month. So if you’re an automaker, certainly if you look at it, kind of initially and say, okay, well these guys are trying to reduce overall personal vehicle ownership.
Sure, that doesn’t look great. But if you look at it from another lens and say, if you can make $10,000 a year sharing a car, what it means if you’re, you know, if you’re Ford or if you’re Audi or if you’re Tesla, it means that all of a sudden, you can afford a higher quality, cleaner, more fuel efficient vehicle. So we actually have Tesla owners on Getaround who are making $2,000 to $3,000 a month. You can go out and lease a Tesla right now for $999 a month which is pretty expensive for most middle-class Americans. But if you’re looking at the future where --
Greg Dalton: There are no more middle-class Americans by the way.
Padden Murphy: Even a $1,000 a month is pretty rough for a middle-class venture capitalist, right, so if -- but if you can make $2,000, $3,000 a month by sharing that, that actually for automakers it means that they can sell higher, higher quality, higher premium vehicles and those are ultimately the cars they want to sell. So I think we’re actually quite aligned.
Greg Dalton: Ozzy Arce, I want to hear your story on this. You’re actually not planning on being a Lyft driver forever, you have other ambitions but this is providing a good job for you right now?
Ozzy Arce: Yeah, yeah, this actually give me a really good option in order to raise funds to be able to push myself forward through either college or now post-college. I always joke around with passengers and tell them that if Lyft and Uber were around when I first started college, then everything would have been much different. But, I definitely do see a change, like when I first came here, I came from San Diego actually, seven years ago. And I came here with a car, I just gotten my car about a year into high school and I came in with it, I realized within two years that I was paying for a car that I didn’t even use and never really needed. I would just sit in the car and I’m just paying for it. So I decided to get rid of it and I had options like Muni, biking was also an option. Uber and Lyft were non-existent at the moment neither.
And then I got used to relying on those things rather than on Uber and Lyft and even now when I need to handle some business in downtown, like I also take public transportation just because that’s what I got used to. Now you got people coming into the city with habits like I probably came with from San Diego that didn’t, you know, we come here with, we take our car everywhere. We take it right, even if it’s two, three blocks, we take it out. Now you come here to San Francisco and you’re still offered that option, you’re obviously going to keep that habit. So, again, it goes back to people themselves and how we monitor our options.
Greg Dalton: Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez?
Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez: I say it not just coming from a reporter perspective but someone who’s born and raised in the city. I didn’t own a car until I was 22. Did not own a car, did not even drive a car, I had to get my license then. Because it’s just such an alien thing to grow up in San Francisco and need a darn car. You got Muni, you can bike, you can walk. A lot of my friends we just walk everywhere. And it is so convenient and San Francisco is finding it more convenient too. They’re finding now that the major mode is all alternative forms and drivers who commute are like 24% alone and then in the carpool than make about just under 50% of the city. So it’s a trend that’s moving.
Greg Dalton: I got a 15-year old kid I want you to come over and talk to him about that. Thank you. You’re hip, he’ll listen to you.
Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez: Red hair does it, yeah.
Greg Dalton: Joe, has the taxi union made taxis more powerful in the city?
Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez: Powerful in what way?
Greg Dalton: Politically, to defend their industry, their jobs, their livelihood?
Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez: Well, you would think, if they are politically powerful then I mean they are somewhat, they have some political power, not -- our present company excluded. So but, you know, there’s just funny that you mentioned that a protest today in front of Uber headquarters. The US conference of mayors that was mentioned earlier I believe is in town. Nearly 300 mayors visiting San Francisco and they’re all -- that conference was sponsored by Uber. Those mayors are going to go visit, visit Uber headquarters today around 2:00 with Mayor Ed Lee. And those folks were outside protesting, they’re outside protesting all weekend. A little group of taxi drivers with signs and I don’t know if there’s five or ten of them outside rallying. I’m not sure anyone talked to them or heard them. And then as far as at the SFMTA they’re at the board I’m sure, the board members of SFMTA could tell you they’re there just about every week pushing for their policies. Sometimes they win, as with the recent win to exempt taxis from being kicked off market street but Uber wanted to also be included in that exemption, they did not win that and sometimes they lose.
Greg Dalton: Chakib Ayadi, what do you want from the regulators in San Francisco, do you want Uber, Lyft to go away? What are you asking for, what does a taxi drivers want?
Chakib Ayadi: Well, actually we want them to be regulated, have their proper registration and the proper insurance for the safety of the public and the bicyclist or pedestrian. We want them to make sure that those drivers are professionals, they know their way around. They pay their taxes and they pay for the taxi stand. And we want the city to know how many number exactly are out there because they are limited in the streets. And that create lot of traffic and lot of congestion.
Greg Dalton: Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez, there is a state law requiring million dollar insurance. This summer the state passed a law so that Uber and Lyft and SideCar have to have a million dollar commercial liability. Farmers Insurance now has a rider that people can buy; it adds 8% to your premium if you own your car and you’re doing Lyft or the Uber on the side. So the insurance question is being addressed, how about some of the other concerns at the taxi industry?
Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez: There are so many concerns. And right now, I’ve been reading them most of all today from the California Public Utilities Commission, all the newest filings that just came in, just today filled with a litany of concerns. Actually the SFMTA, the municipal transportation agency here in San Francisco filed a litany of concerns of things that they would like to see change state wide in regulation of Uber among them deeper criminal background checks.
I’ll tell you a quick story, Syed Muzzaffar, the man who drove for Uber and hit that poor little girl, the six-year old girl, Sophia Liu on New Year’s Eve two years ago and she died. When she was hit and killed and died, her family still hasn’t had a payout from Uber. Syed Muzzaffar also was found to have a criminal background in Florida. The police report that I obtained from Florida showed that he was driving over a 100 miles an hour into oncoming traffic with his family in the back seat.
Now, there’s a question as to whether or not criminal background checks should stop people for driving, you know, people with criminal backgrounds are often -- can be prejudiced against and can’t get jobs. It’s hard for them to keep jobs. But there is a question about whether a man who drove a car 100 miles an hour into oncoming traffic on a Florida highway should be able to drive for Uber. Now, one of the reasons that we found when doing this investigation - and a few different news outlets also did this investigation -- that he was able to clear that background check was Uber’s background check is by law only allowed to search I believe seven years. The FBI criminal background check that runs to the department of justice which the cab drivers need to use through the LiveScan system goes back a hundred years in all sort of jurisdictions. Right now Uber and taxis and other agencies are debating which system is better, are there advantages to using the private background check system, are there advantages to using the department of justice system. And that’s the debate that’s going on right now. That’s a huge one.
Greg Dalton: Do you ride Uber and Lyft yourself?
Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez: I ride every mode of transit in the city for research as a reporter. When I use things personally, I use Muni.
Greg Dalton: Would you put your child in Uber or Lyft?
Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez: There is actually a really interesting question about that right now. The SFMTA is asking the state to have tighter restrictions around minors riding Uber and Lyft. That very thing you’re asking. Will I put my child on Uber and Lyft? I don’t have a child so I’m not sure what risks I would take.
Greg Dalton: Fair enough. Ozzy Arce, you have studied criminal justice, do you know whether you got a criminal background check to drive a Lyft, do you know if they did one on you?
Ozzy Arce: Yeah, yeah, they did. It actually takes a good like four, five days for you to get a response back on that criminal check. I actually just referred my girlfriend about a week ago; she’s still waiting on her background check response too so.
Greg Dalton: I hope it comes back okay.
Ozzy Arce: Yeah, yeah. [Laughs] I hope so, we’ll find out. Hey honey.
Greg Dalton: I want to thank him by the way. He picked me up last night. I mean in a Lyft.
And coerced him talk to him into doing this, so he’s been a real sport doing this. I wanna go to our lightning round and start with Ozzy. And this is a quick answer to the lightning round. Lyft drivers offer mints because they often don’t know where they are going, true or false?
Ozzy Arce: They offer?
Greg Dalton: Mints, candy, they offer --
Ozzy Arce: Oh because they don’t know where they are going. I’m actually against doing the extra service on the Lyft right just because again, it’s just for what it’s for, you know, it’s not necessarily. But yes, there are a lot of people that do.
Greg Dalton: That’s a yes?
Ozzy Arce: Mm-hmm.
Greg Dalton: Many -- this is a yes or no, true or false. Many Uber and Lyft passengers don’t fully understand the risk they are taking when they hop in the car, Ozzy?
Ozzy Arce: Yes.
Greg Dalton: Padden Murphy, James Bond would never let a stranger drive his Tesla or BMW?
Padden Murphy: False.
Padden Murphy: If she was gorgeous.
Greg Dalton: Depends on who she was. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So Padden Murphy, have you ridden on Muni in the past week?
Padden Murphy: Yeah, absolutely.
Greg Dalton: Joe Rodriguez Fitzgerald, Fitzgerald Rodriguez. Conversations with Uber and Lyft drivers are more interesting than conversations with the cabbies, true or false?
Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez: False. I mean true only because taxi drivers just gripe about Uber like half the time.
Greg Dalton: Oh taxi driver, yeah, okay. Also for Joe, self-driving cars will put Uber, Lyft and taxi drivers out of work?
Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez: Oh yes. I was just at a Google talk on that over the weekend.
Greg Dalton: So there’s a common concern there within and Chakib Ayadi, many taxi drivers know the city better than they know their manners, true or false?
Chakib Ayadi: Absolutely right.
Greg Dalton: You heard it here. Also for Chakib, taxi companies improved their customer service only when they had to?
Chakib Ayadi: Well, the customer service by the driver himself not really by the company because you get the car for the company that’s right and the company provides you with the car or dispatch system, the monitor meter, everything. But the real customer service is face to face with the public with people who’s coming from different country or different city to our city. And the first person who meet -- they meet is the taxi driver.
Greg Dalton: If you’re just joining us, we’re talking about getting around the crowded city and the hot air of climate change at Climate One. Our guests are Chakib Ayadi, board member of the San Francisco Taxi Workers Alliance. Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez, a reporter with the San Francisco Examiner. Padden Murphy, with Getaround and Ozzy Arce is a Lyft driver.
Let’s go to our audience question, welcome to Climate One.
Male Participant: Thank you. I had a question regarding the medallions. Because the taxis used to have I think a quarter million dollar medallion fee. And now it seems to be rendered useless by Lyft and Uber and SideCar. So what is the city doing to recover those taxes that are lost and to maybe re-compensate the taxi companies and taxi drivers who owned, you know, paid a lot of money for these medallions and they’re now basically worthless?
Greg Dalton: Interesting. Chakib, I mean those medallions, very valuable, are they worth less now? And I think the question is --
Chakib Ayadi: Well, that’s correct. Those medallions are very valuable, now there is a lot of people they are trying to sell the medallions they own. And a lot of people they’ve gone out of business and well, from the city there is help but they can do better always and there is a waiver from the e-card payment that we have and -- well, there is always way for improvement and help from the city because those taxi drivers their income have cut to 40% now and a lot of people they’re losing their life and their work and their jobs and their money.
Greg Dalton: That’s tough -- Joe Rodriguez, anything to add to that?
Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez: Yeah, I think I mean it’s another example that taxi drivers will point to as the divide between the uneven playing field between these Ride Hail apps and taxis. I mean you pay for a medallion or you rent or lease a medallion in order to drive a taxi versus you just download an app and just in a few days or a week or so, you’re driving for Uber and Lyft. I mean you’re gonna see one thing proliferate where another one does not when you have a situation like that.
Chakib Ayadi: Well, I wanna add to that other than the unfair playing field, we’re competing with Uber and Lyft. Well, there is a difference here because we are professional driver, we are licensed, we have the proper insurance.
So you can see there is like, it’s not the same service that we’re doing because well, unprofessional Uber driver or Lyft, he cannot compete with me because I know my way around, I can get there faster. And especially the taxi industry now is the greenest fleet in the history or in all over United States. 90% of the taxi they are green now, they are hybrid and well, they are new cars most of them. They are required by law to be like not over three years.
Greg Dalton: Taxi drivers definitely know where they’re going better than Uber and Lyft drivers. Let’s have our next question.
Female Participant: I wonder if we’re missing a distinction that San Francisco may have less car owners but more cars. If Uber claims 20,000 cars and Lyft claims 10,000 and that doesn’t even count SideCar, every day there’s 30,000 cars circling in San Francisco neighborhoods, people coming from Nevada to drive them, people coming from the East Bay to drive them. We, in 2012, we weren’t even in the 12 -- the 25th most air polluted cities. As of this year we’re seventh. We’re the second most congested, that wasn’t true a few years ago. Obviously, we have more cars in the city even if they’re not owned by San Franciscans.
Greg Dalton: Joe.
Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez: Yeah, I mean, you know, the population has been booming too, you have to take that into account. But you also have to take in account where the cars are. I mean, if you look at where Uber and Lyft drivers generally congregate, it is in the already most densest areas, you’re getting them around downtown, you’re getting them around south of Market. You’re getting them around the Mission a lot, to some extent the Marina. They are for the most part congregating where things are already congested and that’s where they’re going because that’s where the density and the fares are. Right now they’re in a battle with the Ride Hail apps, Uber and Lyft are in a battle with the public utilities commission of the state about whether or not they should be able to release data about where their cars are.
The state is interested to know not just about congestion, but also about our communities of color being redlined, will they answer a hail in the Bayview? Are taxis answering a hail in the Bayview? They want to know this and for that they need the data and that’s a struggle that’s happening right now.
Greg Dalton: Next question. Welcome.
Male Participant: I’m a cab driver in San Francisco. I see the congestion reaching enormous levels. Passengers ask me all the time if Uber and Lyft affect my business and my answer is this, they’re not affecting my business because I’m a good cab driver, they’re just in my way. Now, being that there is only about 2,000 taxis in San Francisco and we’ve got nearly ten times as many both Uber, Lyft and other app services, right now in San Francisco you can get everything from medical weed to, you know, booze delivered in under 15 minutes and all via an app. Now, that requires drivers to get that done. So if they’re contributing nearly, you know, two million tons of CO2 to the air every year in San Francisco alone, how does that positively affect our city?
Greg Dalton: First of all I didn’t know you can get booze delivered in 15 minutes, thanks for that. I was, okay, right. I couldn’t do it.
Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez: Well, one of the interesting things that you have when you have this proliferation of a lot of new drivers, so one of the benefits Uber and Lyft will tout is that anyone can just drive a few extra hours in their week and make a few extra bucks. A teacher can, a store clerk can. But the tradeoff you get when you get someone who’s only driving a few hours every week is you get someone who doesn’t necessarily have that level of experience or training. The training for Uber and Lyft usually consist mostly of videos. Lyft does offer some Lyft mentors which is kind of a step up from Uber’s offering, people who actually take you out and teach you how to do what you need to do. But Uber for the most part just has kind of videos online, whereas taxis provide about a day’s worth or a week’s worth of training, depending on what training you’re getting. So what you’re seeing and any cop who you’re talking to off the record will tell you is, oh yeah, man, they’re pulling in over here, they’re pulling in over there, they’re double parking here, they’re double parking there. As anyone who knows about city’s fragile system of roads can tell you is even one stalled car in a lane, a right turn lane can make all this congestion, it ripples, it has an effect over the entire city and congestion.
Greg Dalton: Let’s have next audience question. Welcome to Climate One.
Female Participant: All new cabs have had to have been either hybrid or CNG since 2012. Now, Uber and Lyft don’t have to wait for the city to require that. Do they have any plans and how soon are they planning on making all their vehicles hybrid or CNG?
Greg Dalton: Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez, I’m not sure if you know those but you --
Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez: I don’t know about Uber’s or Lyft’s plans for hybrid vehicles but what I do know is that their requirements for vehicles are getting stricter all the time. They’re asking for newer vehicles because newer vehicles tend to be more fuel-efficient. So that is a plus of them asking for newer and nicer vehicles, the more upkept vehicles. But there is also a requirement that they’re battling right now to perhaps require vehicles to have less road wear and tear. They’re getting more stringent inspections including smog inspections and other types of inspections and they’re currently in talks about how strict to make those inspections which can affect that as well.
Greg Dalton: Quickly, one last question. Very quickly.
Male Participant: I use a lot of different transportation in the city and I think it’s important to have a viable taxi industry. But a lot of times I find the vehicle quality, new vehicles, quality of the drivers of -- Ride-Hail Services are better, not always but sometimes, and I think it has a lot to do with drivers getting reviewed and they’re concerned about their reviews. And my question is, is there any strategy to improve value, improve quality, lower prices, something that would make taxis more competitive.
Greg Dalton: Tee up Flywheel, Chakib?
Chakib Ayadi: Well, that’s a good question. And well, as far as quality you have professional driver who is properly licensed and properly insured so you are completely safe when you ride in a cab other than Uber the driver doesn’t know how to get around. He is not secure and he’s not properly licensed, he’s not properly insured. And we have the app and you can download on your phone, it’s called Flywheel. We are professional drivers and the candy or chocolate, that’s not customer service.
Greg Dalton: Thank you, Chakib Ayadi. Chakib Ayadi is a board member of the San Francisco Taxi Workers Alliance, Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez is a reporter with the San Francisco Examiner, Padden Murphy is head of business development as you just heard at Getaround and Ozzy Arce is a driver with Lyft. I’m Greg Dalton. Thank you all for coming and listening to Climate One today.