AB 1360

June 25, 2015

Senate Transportation and Housing Committee

Sate Capitol, Room 209

Sacramento, CA 95814

  

AB 1360 (Ting) – OPPOSE

 

Dear Senators,

 

On June 10, we submitted a letter in opposition to AB 1360, also on behalf of a statewide coalition of taxi organizations from Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose and Sacramento.  We understand that the bill will now be amended to allow other charter-party carriers as well as TNCs to charge passengers on an individual basis.  This amendment does not address the harmful consequences the bill will have for public transportation, and in fact will make things worse by allowing limousines, town cars and other highly polluting vehicles -- in addition to TNCs -- to more easily compete with the environmentally preferable alternatives of buses, rail and taxis.  

 

AB 1360 relies on the false premise that TNC operations bring environmental benefits.   Quite the opposite is true.  By Uber’s own admission, as of December 2014, it had some 16,000 vehicles operating in San Francisco alone. At a Mayor’s Disability Council meeting in San Francisco on September 19, 2014, a spokesperson for Lyft said it has “tens of thousands” of drivers in S.F. (By way of comparison, there are fewer than 2,000 taxis legally operating in San Francisco.) Many TNC vehicles have been purchased and financed through TNC-sponsored incentive programs and sub-prime loans expressly for the purpose of providing this service. The result is a nightmare of congestion, pollution and wear-and-tear to the roads. According to data collected by GPS developer Tom Tom, in the two years since TNCs have been allowed to operate, San Francisco has become the second most congested city in the U.S. (after Los Angeles).[1] 

 

As documented in the American Lung Association’s annual “State of the Air” Reports, the San Francisco Bay Area’s air quality has markedly deteriorated since TNCs began operations.  During the years 2008-2010, the Bay Area was not on the ALA’s list of America’s 25 most polluted urban areas for short-term and year-round particle pollution (stpp and yrpp).[2]  In the report for 2010-2012 – when TNCs began operations – the Bay Area became #10 on the list for stpp, but was still not in the top 25 for yrpp.[3]  In this year’s ALA report, which covers 2011-2013, San Francisco jumped from #10 to #6 for stpp, and came from off the list to #6 in yrpp.[4]  Since the number of TNC vehicles has exploded since 2013, future reports are bound to show further deterioration in air quality.[5]

   

It is crucial to understand that TNC vehicles are not replacing personal cars to any significant extent. A study conducted by the University of California Transportation Center, U.C. Berkeley, released in August 2014, asked users of Uber, Lyft and Sidecar how they would have made the trip if those services weren’t available. Only 6% said they would have driven their own car, while another 1% would have gotten a ride with a family member or friend. Fully 93% would have gotten there some other way. Thirty-nine percent said they would have taken a taxi, and 33% would have used mass transportation (bus or rail).[6]  This minimal reduction in personal car use is far offset by the explosion in the number of TNC vehicles on the streets, which are duplicating and usurping the operations of other, environmentally preferable transportation providers.

 

AB 1360 would promote an unjustified expansion of TNC services that will draw even more passengers away from mass transportation, undermining those environmentally superior services and the jobs they provide.  This is already happening, albeit unlawfully.  To give just one example, an op-ed article in the June 25, 2015 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle reports “Lyft offered a temporary discount from its typical $6 to $10 fares, and invited their users to ‘use the code MATCHMUNI to unlock $2.25Line rides’”.[7]  (“Line rides” refers to Lyft’s pooled ride service.)

 

The same holds true for their effects on the taxi industry and taxi drivers. San Francisco has the greenest taxi fleet in the country. Nearly all S.F. cabs must be hybrids or other low-emissions vehicles. In contrast, CPUC rules allow all sorts of vehicles to perform TNC services, including non-hybrid vans, minivans, SUVs and pickup trucks.

 

The CPUC has yet to conduct a badly needed environmental impact study of TNC operations.  In New York, where average traffic speeds have recently declined about 9%, the City Council is currently considering two pieces of legislation capping the expansion of Uber-like services and mandating a traffic impact study.[8]  (New York City has roughly the same number of Uber and similar-type vehicles as San Francisco, although it is almost 10 times the size.)  California should conduct such a study before allowing any further expansion of TNC operations.

 

Furthermore, TNC charges in general, and the individual fare arrangement of AB 1360 in particular, are not subject to any meaningful control. The bill merely provides that the charge to an individual must be less than the fare would be for a single passenger. That provision is meaningless in light of the practice of “surge pricing”, where the fare at peak times may be as much as eight times the normal charge.  While bus and shuttle services licensed as Passenger Stage Corporations may charge individual fares, they must file tariffs and their charges are subject to CPUC oversight. Cities strictly regulate maximum taxi charges to keep them affordable and non-discriminatory, but for TNCs, the sky’s the limit, with no oversight on their charges at all.  They are free to price-gouge the public as they please, and the higher charges during surge periods allow them to undercut taxi fares –which must remain affordable at all times – when demand is low.  

 

Lastly, it is extremely troubling that TNCs are currently performing these services in plain defiance of Public Utilities Code Section 5401, which prohibits charter-party carriers from charging individual fares.  TNCs have had every opportunity to seek the legislature’s approval before starting these services. The branch of government entrusted with the making of laws should not be condoning and rewarding those who break them, by legitimizing their behavior after the fact. That would only encourage these companies and many others to do more of the same.

 

In sum, the passage of this bill would be harmful to the environment and would

undermine bus, rail and taxi services, to the detriment of the public. We urge you to

vote “NO” on AB 1360.  But should the committee decide to approve this bill, at the very least it should be amended to require an environmental impact report on the effects of TNC operations, particularly in large urban areas, before any further expansion of TNC operations is allowed. 

 

 

Respectfully,

 

San Francisco Taxi Workers Alliance:            sftwaboard@gmail.com            415-864-8294

United Taxi Workers of San Diego:                sarah@utwsd.org                      619-255-7355

Los Angeles Taxi Workers Alliance:  gebreweldgirma@yahoo.com   323-649-2896

Sacramento Taxi Cab Union:                          zaidi.kasman@yahoo.com        916-912-6825

San Jose Taxi Drivers Association:                kirpalbajwa@hotmail.com        408-887-667



[3] http://www.stateoftheair.org/2014/city-rankings/most-polluted-cities.html

[4] http://www.stateoftheair.org/2015/city-rankings/most-polluted-cities.html

[5] The number of Uber drivers in San Francisco increased from about 6,000 to over 16,000 between February and December of 2014, according to a study done at Princeton University.  Hall, J.V. and Krueger A.B., “An Analysis of the Labor Market for Uber’s Driver-Partners in the United States,” Jan. 2015 (at 15): http://dataspace.princeton.edu/jspui/handle/88435/dsp010z708z67d

[7] “Uber, Lyft, Chariot won’t solve out transit problem”, S.F. Chronicle, 6/25/15, p. A12.

[8] New York Post, 6/23/15:  http://nypost.com/2015/06/23/city-council-wants-to-cut-down-on-uber-cars/

 

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