Tag Archives: san francisco

Transit + Ridesharing: Uber partners with Caltrain to create POOLtrain

Ridesharing services like Lyft and Uber are a great complement to high frequency, long distance transit corridors. They provide an affordable, fast last mile option, especially in areas where connecting bus service is infrequent or non-existent.

Even outside of large events, taking an uber to get directly to the Ferry building, or a Lyft as the last mile connection from a BART station is a pretty great way to avoid needing to drive a car to get around the Bay Area.

For Super Bowl 50, Uber has partnered with Caltrain to create what they are calling “POOLtrain”. They have added support for UberPool at all Caltrain stations for riders going to or from each station.


Uber claims that 80,000 Uber trips started or ended within 100 meters of a Caltrain station during a one month period last July. With most of the Peninsula being sprawling single family homes, not particularly walkable and poorly served by local transit, its not surprising that ridesharing is a popular way to access Caltrain, the major regional transit provider. With traffic on the parallel Highway 101 and 280 being increasingly worse, Caltrain represents a great way to avoid hours spent sitting alone in a car moving slowly.

The “POOLtrain” will only be available the week of the Super Bowl, Jan 30 – Feb 7, 2016. Perhaps if it spurs enough interest in UberPool it will become permanently available on the peninsula. If that happens, it would be interesting if Caltrain stations feature signage and designated areas for ridesharing pickups and dropoffs.

The partnership between a transit agency and uber is also interesting. Many transit agencies view ridesharing as a competitive threat. For agencies that provide high-frequency, long distance transit, especially along congested corridors, ridesharing is more of a complement making it easy for people to forgo driving entirely.

Uber experiments with fixed-route service in San Francisco

Uber is trying its hand at operating more like a transit agency with fixed-route services in San Francisco. According to TechCrunch, its new “Smart Routes” service will have vehicles operating on a specified corridor with set pickup/dropoff locations along he route. Riders who choose to be picked up and dropped off on these routes will be charged $1 less than the normal UberPool fare. UberPool fares in much of San Francisco are about $7 per ride, and can accommodate one or two riders on a shared ride.




Currently, there are two Smart Routes in San Francisco: Fillmore between Haight and Bay and Valencia between 15th and 26th.

These Smart Routes aim to make trips more efficient by eliminating the number of turns drivers need to make and choosing pickup/dropoff locations that are easy for drivers to use. It will appeal to riders who are not picky about walking a block or two out of their way to save a dollar and have a potentially shorter wait and travel time. (i.e. those already walking around or those who just want to get to specific neighborhood, not necessarily a particular address).

Smart Routes join Uber’s “Perpetual Rides”, suggested pickup points and Lyft’s Triple Match service as ways to improve the efficiency of ridesharing.

Uber launching a fleet of boats in San Francisco (one day only)

uber-boatCoinciding with the potential second BART strike on Monday, August 5, Uber is providing boat service between San Francisco and the East Bay. The service will be available one day only.

Boats leaving the East Bay will be available 7 AM to 9 AM, and boats leaving San Francisco will be available 5 PM to 7 PM. The cost is $30 and includes breakfast and uber swag.

Since some boats are faster than others, and wind is an issue for sailboats, the estimated travel time is 30-90 minutes.

Read more on the uber blog.

SFMTA to allow designated on-street parking for peer-to-peer carsharing vehicles

SFMTA released a draft of its Car Sharing Policy and Pilot Project. They are announcing a pilot project to allocate some on-street parking spaced to carsharing and peer-to-peer carsharing vehicles in San Francisco. Peer-to-peer carsharing vehicles are cars owned by individuals that are available for the general public to use via services like GetAround and Relay Rides.

The pilot will allocate up to 150 spaces (0.05% of the total on-street spaces in San Francisco) to carsharing. Only two spaces per block at most will be allocated.

In order for peer-to-peer cars to be included, they must be available for use by the general public 75% of the time. How this is enforced or monitored is not indicated.


On-street carsharing Zones

Additionally, carsharing organizations must allocate a minimum percentage of cars to the less-dense areas of San Francisco. These ares are typically poorly served by traditional carsharing companies (City CarShare and Zipcar) as they have less density, higher car ownership rates and thus less demand for carsharing. A minimum of 15% of spaces must be allocated to Zone 2 and 15% to Zone 3.

Zone 2 includes the dense, carsharing friendly Upper Haight, which is where I expect all of the required Zone 2 spaces to be allocated. Zone 3 may see the required cars being allocated near SF State or possibly along the edge in the Inner Sunset.

The plan requires carsharing organizations to do community outreach to recruit new embers, provide a summary of the outreach and to provide data on usage to SFMTA.

The full draft:

New San Francisco Law will Collect Realtime Location from all Taxis


San Francisco taxi origins and destinations, with magnitude blobs by Eric Fischer

The San Francisco board of supervisors will vote on a law that will require all taxis to transmit their locations to a central system. Additionally, all apps based on hailing cabs (UberTaxi, Taxi Magic, Flywheel) would be required to use the network.

This will have a few effects:

  • Create a great new source of data about cab demand and supply for SFMTA to use when deciding how to regulate cabs and potentially allow additional cabs.
  • Enlarge the pool of cabs hailable via apps
  • Remove app companies ability to regulate which drivers are allowed into their systems, potentially decreasing driver quality and passenger experience

SFist puts it best:

A good number of our cab drivers are unprofessional bigots and goons who don’t represent well for their ilk, smoking in their own cabs, refusing to take credit cards, being homophobic, and refusing to drive to the Sunset and elsewhere.

Uber Taxi charges an additional $1 on top of the cab cost and tip to use its service for hailing a cab. One benefit to using Uber Taxi is that it has vetted drivers and will remove drivers with low ratings from its service. If uber was required to use all San Francisco taxi drivers, no matter how bad thier rating was, there would be less incentive to use uber over other taxi hailing apps.

Airport based peer-to-peer carsharing arrives: FlightCar

flightcar-logoInstead of paying to park your car at the airport, you can now rent your car to another traveler and get it delivered back to your on your return professionally cleaned, gassed up and get a free gas card. Startup FlightCar launched today at San Francisco International Airport (SFO).

On the flip side, you can rent someone elses car for substantially less than traditional rental rates and have the car delivered to your at the airport on arrival, skipping the shuttles, lines and paperwork associated with renting a car.

FlightCar manages the pickup, storage, delivery and cleaning of the vehicle both before a renter receives the car and after the rental is complete. Both the owner and renter get picked up and can drop the car off curbside to a FlightCar valet. FlightCar also has insurance lined up to protect the owners car, in much the same way peer-to-peer carsharing companies Getaround, Relay Rides and Wheelz handle this. This video explains FlightCar with some nice illustrations.

FlightCar currently supports one airport (SFO) and a quick search on their site revealed several cars available for rent next week ranging from $28-$41 day. FlightCar says that the cheapest cars will be available for $13/day. These prices are inclusive of taxes, fees and insurance, so they represent real savings over traditional car rental agencies. My searches also revealed a wider variety of vehicles than normally available through car rental agencies including several Mini-vans. Higher capacity vehicles like minivans are normally much more expensive to rent than normal sedans at traditional car rental agencies.


FlightCar rentals are limited to 90 miles per day (averaged across the entire rental) so they won’t work out as well for cross-country adventures. Additional miles are $0.35/mile. Additional drivers can be added for $10/each. Renters pay for gas and are expected to bring back vehicles with the same amount of fuel as when they started.

Interestingly, renters between 18-25 can rent FlightCars with no additional charge, as long as the vehicles value is under $40,000. This is a major win for younger renters who are generally excluded or charged extremely high surcharges at traditional car rental places.

Flightcar raised $570,000 in seed funding and is part of YCombinator. Their disruptive startup has a lot of potential, but may hit snags with regulation or get in fights with entrenched airport ground transportation interests. Ensuring that all transactions with travelers who may be in a rush go smoothly is important (although traditional car rental companies are not always known for making smooth or efficient transactions). Ensuring enough staff to pickup, dropoff, park and clean cars may be a challenge at peak times or when travelers schedules or flight plans change.

Uber lowers rates in SF, cost is now closer to a Taxi


Today Uber announced that it was lowering its rates in San Francisco by about 10%, effective Jan 21, 2013.  This brings the cost of using Uber in SF closer to the cost of a Taxi.

The minimum fare of $15 did not change, so very short trips will cost the same.  However, most trips will have a reduced price.  The old and new prices for regular Uber (black car) trips in SF:

Old rates New rates
Base Fare $8.00 $7.00
Per Minute $1.25 $1.05
Per Mile $4.90 $4.00
Minimum $15.00 $15.00
Gratituity included included

Uber also launched UBERx for everyone today (it was in private beta).  UBERx is a lower priced version of Uber that uses hybrid and mid-range cars, not necessarily black. UberX rates:

UBERx rates
Base Fare $5.75
Per Minute $0.85
Per Mile $3.75
Minimum $10.00
Gratituity included

For reference, San Francisco taxi rates:

SF Taxi Rates
Base Fare
(includes first 1/5 mile)
Per Minute of waiting or traffic delay $0.55
Per Mile $2.75
Airport Surcharge $2.00
Gratuity 15%

I crunched some numbers for a few theoretical trips:

Taxi UBERx New Regular Uber rates
Mission to SOMA
(2 miles, 3 mins of waiting)
$12.25 $15.80 $18.15
Inner Sunset to Marina
(4 miles, 7 mins of waiting)
$21.10 $26.70 $30.35
Golden Gate Bridge to Caltrain
(7 miles, 15 mins of waiting)
$35.65 $44.75 $50.75

UBERx costs 25-30% more than at taxi (including gratuity) while the new regular Uber rates are about 40-45% more than a taxi.  The main benefit of Uber over a taxi is reduced travel time and reduced variability in trip time. By booking a ride through the app, users know exactly how long until their driver arrives to pick them up and can monitor progress in the app.  Unlike with taxis, there is no chance they will abandon you and pick up someone else en route, so you can be certain about when they will arrive.  For many high value trips, the additional 25-45% cost over a taxi may be worthwhile.

There are other benefits of Uber over a taxi:

  • Nicer vehicles
  • Consistently friendly and knowledgeable drivers
  • No cash or payment needed at end of trip (payment is via app and happens automatically)  This speeds up travel time slightly as well.

It should be also noted that Uber launched a new option to request a standard SF taxi through their app.  The trip cost is standard taxi rates plus $1 and 20% gratuity.

Uber is worth trying out for your next high-value trip.  They currently have options in 26 cities and 7 countries, although not all vehicle options are available in all cities (San Francisco tends to get most of them earliest).

More one-way trip options with Scoot

scoot-logoElectric scooter sharing service Scoot announced today that it now supports one-way trips in both directions between four different scoot pods and the Caltrain. The locations are Mary’s Square, Polk Gulch, Mission & 16th and Mission & 21st. The cost for one-way trips is the same as a round trip: $5/hour or the $10 daily rates (see full rate chart).


This expands on the one-way trips that Scoot enabled last week between Mission & 21st and Caltrain. Scoot also pushed updates to its app to allow searching for one-way and two-way trips.

One-way scoot rentals open up lots of new multi-modal trip options using transit, carpooling, walking or taxi combined with scoot.  It also makes taking Caltrain a lot more attractive for people living near Scoot locations.

Read more about scoot or sign up.

Analysis of 1 year of taxi complaints in San Francisco (all 1700 of them)

The Bay Citizen did an analysis of all 1700 of the recorded complaints about taxis in San Francisco.  Complaints were sent to the city’s 311 compliant line.  The 1700 complaints span from July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012 and represent a 13% increase over the previous time period.


The complaint list is an interesting read.

  • 361 complaints about drivers not picking them up because of their appearance
  • 206 complaints about being overcharged
  • 200 complaints about drivers not taking credit cards
  • 130 complaints about drivers not picking them up because of their destination (usually the Sunset or Richmond)
  • 40 complaints about drivers charging illegal fees
  • 35 complaints about drivers using cell phones
  • 25 complaints about drivers smoking
  • 15 complaints about drivers not picking them up because they were African American.

SFMTA has one person in charge of investigating complaints.

Poor quality taxi service is one of the reasons why users seem to be so enthusiastic about new ride-sharing services Sidecar and Lyft as well as taxi-replacement service Uber.  Payment and overcharging are not a problem as all of these services handle it directly via a smartphone app. Users can complain directly to the company if they have any issues.  Lyft, Sidecar and Uber have a lot of incentive to take complaints seriously as users won’t continue to patronize them if drivers are rude, refuse to take them places or drive in an unsafe way.  Because trips on these services are booked via smartphone, every trip is tracked so a user has a record of who the driver was, whereas with a taxi and a cash payment unless you remember the can drivers ID you may not know who to complain about.

Scoot now supports one-way trips

scoot-logoScoot Networks, provider of short-term electric scooter rental in San Francisco, announced today that they now support one-way trips.  Initially, one-way trips will only be allowed between two scoot locations:  21st & Valencia and Caltrain (4th & Townsend).  They intend to work the kinks out of one-way trips before adding the ability across all of their locations.

There are no additional fees for one-way trips: Scoots still cost only $5/hour or $10 for 8AM – 6PM Weekdays or Overnight.

scoots with docks2If you are not familiar with scoot, it operates similar to a carsharing company like Zipcar except they provide electric scooters instead of cars.  Pricing ends up being a lot less than car rental.  No special driver’s license is needed.

I’m a member of a scoot and excited to give one-way trips a try.  One-way trips open up a lot of trip types that were not possible before (assuming you live near a one-way scoot pod):

  • Scoot to a store, buy something bulky and take a cab home
  • Scoot to meet someone and take transit from there
  • Scoot somewhere to drink, and take transit home
  • Scoot to Caltrain, go to the southbay and get a ride home with someone

It will be interesting to see how scoot handles one-way demand across the day: will they need to constantly reposition scoots to meet demand going to caltrain in the morning and coming back in the evening?

Read more about scoot or sign up.