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Lyft and Uber drivers generate 20 percent of miles driven on SF streets

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Almost all of it concentrated in northeastern neighborhoods

Out of focus headlights and taillights on a dark San Francisco street. Ekaterina Pokrovsky

Thousands of drivers for Lyft and Uber take to San Francisco streets every day, ferrying tens of thousands of passengers. But just how many thousands? And how do they affect the neighborhoods on their regular beats?

To get closer to some answers, the city went to Boston-based private research school Northeastern University for a report titled “TNCs Today,” which the San Francisco County Transportation Authority will address at its meeting this morning.

(“TNC” stands for “transit network company”—rideshare companies, in common parlance.)

The hope is that reliable numbers drivers can in turn drive smarter policy about them.

But “TNC Today’s” authors do caution that it comes with one important caveat: “This report does not identify the extent to which TNCs affect congestion. Many factors contribute to increased congestion,” they say.

So nobody is pointing the finger at Lyft and Uber over gridlock, at least not directly. Rather, this is supposed to be an effort at delivering just the facts. Here’s some highlights:

Michael Urmann
  • Rideshares are 15 percent of all trips taken on an average weekday: They average about 170,000 pickups.
  • That’s about nine percent of all “person trips”: Although nobody counted the passengers and this is an estimate based on typical taxi behavior.
  • Nobody is really sure how many Uber and Lyft drivers the city has: But the city estimates that it’s around 45,000.
  • About 12.6 percent of whom are active most days: Some 5,700 of those drivers are on San Francisco streets during the busiest hours.
  • But hundreds more come in on Friday night: Between 7:30 and 8:00 p.m. on Friday, the number is closer to 6,500.
  • These drivers account for 20 percent of miles driven on SF streets: Some 570,000 miles on an average weekday.
  • Most of them are from out of town: Only 29 percent of registered drivers are from San Francisco County. 21 percent are from Alameda County, 16 percent from San Mateo County, and 12 percent from Contra Costa County. Ten percent are from outside of the Bay Area entirely. Zero percent hail from Napa County.
  • On the other hand, there are only 1,800 legal taxis operating: So on an average Tuesday like today, of the 160,000 or so rides people grab, fewer than 25,000 will be taxi rides.
  • They mostly stick to northeastern neighborhoods: At the busiest times, rideshare drivers make up 26 percent of traffic in SoMa and downtown regions.
  • But they don’t like Bayview or the Sunset much: In the “southern and western part of the city” Uber and Lyft drivers are only about four percent of vehicle trips even at the busiest time.

You can see the full report—including a map of which neighborhoods get hit the hardest and when—here. It might make decent reading during your next Lyft commute.