On Tuesday, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) presented the results of its fifth annual transit survey, which found that fewer San Franciscans are getting around via their own cars. But many residents have eschewed public transit or bikes in favor of the newfangled car services.
SFMTA began conducting the annual Transportation Decision Survey in 2013 to measure efforts to curb the use of private cars.
While private car use has declined almost every year—it’s now a minority option for daily commuters—that doesn’t necessarily add up to fewer cars on the road.
Among this year’s findings:
- Only 43 percent of daily trips in the city are made by a person driving their own private automobile, down from 50 percent in 2013.
- However, this has translated to only marginal increases in the number of trips taken by mass transit, bike, or simply walking, which the survey results all call “steady” or “generally steady” since 2013.
- Instead, the biggest beneficiary of the decline in private car use has been Transit Network Companies (TNC) like Lyft ad Uber, although these are still the least commonly used of all commute options.
- The breakdown for daily trips this year is 43 percent driving, 26 percent public transit, 25 percent walking, four percent TNCs, and two percent cycling.
- Overall the city sees 4.2 million daily trips, 1.8 million of which are done by private car.
- According to the survey, “People said they choose to drive primarily because they see it as the fastest and most convenient option.” Which, yeah.
The findings are a bit of a mixed bag for San Francisco City Hall. On the one hand, use of the city’s preferred commute methods, like cycling and public transit, are up after five years, however incrementally. And car use is down.
But the rise of TNCs knocks the stuffing out of most of the evident gains. Earlier this year, Northwestern University estimated that Lyft and Uber drivers account for 20 percent of all miles driven on SF streets most days. Although note that that study estimated much higher TNC use than the city’s transit survey, around 15 percent of daily trips.
“In 2016, San Francisco was rated as having the third worst traffic congestion in the nation,” SFMTA complained to the state’s Public Utilities Commission in 2016 while pointing the finger at rideshare use.
The city estimates some 45,000 such drivers may be on the streets, although there is no official count.
- Transportation Decision Survey, 2017 [SFMTA]
- Decision Survey Results [SFMTA]
- Lyft, Uber Generate 20 Percent of Miles [Curbed SF]
- SFMTA Comments to PUC [PUC]