Digging for Data | Libertarian Party of San Francisco

Digging for Data

ridesharesIs there no limit to the hypocrisy spouted by our local politicians? Did you read about the recent resolutions introduced by Supervisor Aaron Peskin at both the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA), which he chairs, and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors calling on state legislators to give government officials the right to review the confidential business data of Uber and Lyft? The reason for this nosiness is because the rideshare companies are allegedly causing traffic congestion in The City. The resolution, which was authored by Peskin and co-sponsored at the Board of Supervisors by Supervisor Sandra Fewer, argues that access to the trip data is necessary so government bureaucrats can study it and figure out what to do about traffic congestion. Peskin is unhappy that the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has the data from Uber and Lyft but will not share it with the public or the bureaucrats. According to Mayor Lee, “I think asking for data is good, and that data should inform us how to relieve that (traffic) congestion.”

In the first place, while 100% transparency is necessary for good government, in the voluntary economy, its’s a completely different matter. In order for healthy competition to occur between firms in the same industry, companies’ business data should be kept confidential and regarded as sacred and proprietary—and definitely none of the government’s business. The CPUC granted confidentiality of trip data to Uber and Lyft so each company would not get a competitive edge on the other. “Asking” for data might sound harmless, but where government officials are involved, they “ask” first, then demand, and then quickly move on to threats, fines, and penalties the moment compliance doesn’t occur.

Secondly, if the politicians are that concerned about the gridlock occurring in The City, they need to look at their own programs rather than looking for scapegoats. With the relentless rolling out of Plan Bay Area, it should be rather obvious that the continual removing of traffic lanes and parking spaces increases gridlock. For years now, the streets in one neighborhood after another are being quietly redesigned, and the end results are always less driving lanes for motorists and more bike lanes for bicyclists, along with bulb outs and wider sidewalks for pedestrians. The recent construction began a few months ago on Van Ness Avenue between Mission and Lombard to build bus traffic lanes in the middle of Highway 101 will probably improve mass transit—though no guarantee with the ever- unreliable MUNI—along that corridor. However, this will come at a cost of removing 2 out of 6 lanes of traffic for passenger cars. Where will the cars go? They’re not going to magically disappear, as the bureaucrats hope. Most likely they will end up on other less crowded streets or possibly that other major thoroughfare through The City—19th Avenue, which already handles thousands of cars every day. As anyone who ever attended Plan Bay Area public hearings for “input” can testify, the outcomes were pre-determined and contrary viewpoints are politely listened to—and then ignored. The fact of the matter is that the politicians and their cronies decided years ago that people should give up their cars and walk, ride, or take public transit. If a little nudging won’t do it, then perhaps making driving in The City more miserable might do the trick. As always, this is all by design.

While it should come as no surprise to politicians why traffic is getting worse, something else irks them no end. They not only prefer that folks give up riding in their own cars—they don’t want people riding in any cars. Uber and Lyft have proven to be wildly popular with consumers who need to get around, much to the dismay of the politicians. Hence the endless “requests” for driver data from the ridesharing companies. Peskin has said that transportation officials from the SFMTA and the SFCTA believe the surge of Uber and Lyft drivers may be impacting the congestion but “we need to back up the anecdotal experiences citywide.” The real motivation behind this sudden concern about traffic is contained in Peskin’s resolution as he cites a drop in BART ridership to SFO due to Uber and Lyft and also that having ridesharing companies draws people away from public transportation in general. Imagine that! Folks having access to all this wonderful government transportation but still preferring to use evil private (voluntary) services instead. Peskin and his henchmen need to get hold of more data to stop this outrage!