Solutions to ridesharing congestion in the works in Downtown San Francisco

ByRandall Yip KGO logo
Friday, April 5, 2019
Solutions to ridesharing congestion in the works in Downtown San Francisco
The Salesforce Transit Center and soon to be opened Chase Center are expected to bring thousands of more people to San Francisco. Many will be using rideshares. Yet plans to ease the traffic are not yet in place.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The Salesforce Transit Center and soon to be opened Chase Center are expected to bring thousands of more people to San Francisco. Many will be using rideshares. Yet plans to ease the traffic are not yet in place.

The cultural disruption of Uber and Lyft is well documented. We wondered what will be done to stem any disruption to traffic that may be caused by those two services.

RELATED: Building A Better Bay Area: Rideshare realities

Months before the Chase Center will be opened as the new home of the Golden State Warriors and weeks before the Salesforce Transit Center is tentatively scheduled to reopen.

Traffic is already backed up in one of the busiest areas of the city with plenty of Uber and Lyft cars streaming by.

What will happen when commuters return to the Transit Center and sell out crowds descend on Chase while only one mile away, Giants fans rock Oracle?

"We do know that a lot of people are going to be traveling around the areas of the Transit Center and Chase Center and around the Transit Center we know that in the Downtown area, we know there's a lot of congestion," said Paul Rose with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

Knowing is one thing-- finding a solution takes time.

"We should have a plan developed by the end of this year or early next year," said Rose.

RELATED: San Francisco's love-hate relationship with rideshares spawning proposal to tax Uber, Lyft rides

That would mean no plan will be in place before the Transit Center's anticipated reopening in June.

In cities worldwide, ride hailing services have gotten ahead of cities.

Susan Shaheen is with the Institute for Transportation Studies at UC Berkeley.

"In responding to it, cities are getting better and better at responding to it, but in terms of planning for it, I don't think they were planning for it," said Shaheen.

To get a taste of what to expect, we called a Lyft and got in at about 6:50 and then headed towards the Chase Center. We've allowed ourselves 40 minutes to go two and a half miles for what theoretically would be a 7:30 Warriors game.

The clock chimed 7 at the Ferry Building as we passed. It took 10 minutes to go the first 0.8 miles. It didn't get much quicker after that.

By the time we hit the lefty O'doul Bridge, the Chase Center is nearing our sights. It's now 15 minutes before the game. Now remember, we're just in normal commute time traffic. There's no Giants game or any other major event in the area.

RELATED: Rideshare etiquette: How to act in an Uber or Lyft

The driver picks up speed. We finally arrive 10 minutes before tip off

Well, the ride was comfortable, and the driver certainly knew what he was doing. He drove safely. But that two and a half miles, it wasn't quick-- it took 31 minutes.

A new metro stop is being built in front of the Chase Center. Muni plans to have multiple rail cars on the platform waiting for fans to leave the arena.

The city is also working with the Warriors to develop a transit plan. The Warriors tell us it agrees with the city that "limited curb space should be used as efficiently as possible."

One city report calls for an off-site parking lot for ride hailing services to stage, but no plan is finalized at this time.

The plan for the Transit Center is part of a city-wide plan to better manage curbside space.

While there, we saw one ride hailing driver use a cross walk to pick up passengers.

RELATED: Ridesharing nibbling away at public transit ridership in Peninsula, South Bay

"We can't build more curb space. We can use it better, but we can use it in a more safe manner so that things like TNCs can operate safely on the streets," said Rose of the SFMTA.

TNC is another name for ride-hailing services. At Levy Stadium, the 49ers restrict pick ups and drop offs to Parking Lot 7, a mile away.

The team believes the ride share program works best when they are located on the outskirts of the stadium to minimize the impact on traffic.

Shaheen of UC Berkeley points to Paris as a model. In that city, she says you can only pick up an Uber or Lyft in a designated spot.

"If people are able to walk to a pick up location, that could aid in terms of efficiency with respect to pick up and drop off over all," she said.

That would lighten traffic but it would also means less convenience for passengers.

At San Francisco International Airport, ground transportation vehicles make up more than four out of 10 cars. Out of that, 80 percent are Uber and Lyft vehicles. For the first time, Uber X and Lyft customers can get picked up from the airport on the roof of the domestic garage.

In a few months, the airport says traffic around the terminals has been reduced by more than 20 percent.

RELATED: Former head of NYC taxi commission on regulating ridesharing in Bay Area and beyond

"Our goal really is to be able to divert about a third of all pick up activity into the garage," said Doug Yakel, spokesperson for San Francisco International Airport.

Architects are also trying to do their part.

This 750,000 square foot $650 million project in Burlingame which Facebook will lease includes specific drop off locations in the center for ride hailing services.

Another project by Gensler in Los Angeles has room for ride hailing services to pull into the building on the ground floor. The same area can be repurposed into office space should the need's of the tenants change or the use of cars decrease as some are predicting.

This same concept is likely to be adapted for buildings in the Bay Area as well.

"We have larger lobbies, larger spaces in front of the building and places where cars can pull over and get out of traffic so they can pick up and drop off passengers safely, said Ben Tranel, principal at Gensler.

Redirecting traffic is also something the city is trying.

Ride hailing services are currently prohibited from picking up and dropping off passengers in areas designated for taxis only, including certain areas of Market Street.

Ultimately the answer may be to get people out of their private cars.

"The best way to alleviate congestion in San Francisco is to put more people on transit. The only way to do that is to make transit more attractive for people who need it," said Rose.

We'll stay on top of this and let you know when the city releases its new traffic plan for Uber and Lyft.

Check out more stories about Building a Better Bay Area.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.