45,000 Uber and Lyft drivers clogging roads, according to San Francisco Examiner

According to the San Francisco Examiner, some 45,000 Uber and Lyft drivers are now working in the city. By comparison, a mere 1,800 taxi drivers cover the same turf. A national study of traffic estimated that San Franciscans spend an extra 37 minutes each day stuck in traffic, a number that has been steadily rising since 2008.

In a recent state regulatory filing, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency took the California Public Utilities Commission — which is tasked with regulating ride-hail companies — to task for failing to reasonably limit the industry’s explosive growth.  “The commission’s prior and current rulemaking process clearly has had a significant environmental impact,” including increasing carbon emissions due to more Uber and Lyft cars on the road, the SFMTA wrote to the commission last week.  The SFMTA’s regulatory filing mainly concerned the legality of Uber and Lyft drivers using rental cars as personal vehicles to drive passengers, an ongoing debate at the CPUC that the commission may vote to resolve this month.  The SFMTA argued that since state regulators and the CPUC are moving to make rented and leased vehicles legal for Uber and Lyft drivers, any legal distinction separate from for-hire limos and taxis is essentially bunk.

The filing also asks the CPUC to conduct a full environmental review of the effect of riding-hailing companies. Primarily, however, the filing deals with the ability of ride-sharing drivers to use rental vehicles to do their job. As such, SFMTA wants those drivers regulated like limo drivers.

“Now, if TNC drivers can simply rent or lease a vehicle solely for the purpose of providing for-hire transportation, any distinction that may have existed between TNCs and other charter-party carriers based on the fact that TNC drivers operate vehicles obtained for personal use rather than vehicles obtained solely or primarily for commercial purposes has been eliminated,” SFMTA writes.

“As a result, the rationale for applying different rules to limousines than are applied to TNCs no longer exists.”

The tension over seemingly lax rules for ride-sharing companies is nothing new. For some time, taxi drivers have complained that companies like Uber and Lyft operate under far weaker regulations. Unlike taxis, which are regulated on the city level, Uber and Lyft rules are set at the state level.

Flywheel Taxi, a San Francisco-based cab company, filed suit against the California Public Utilities Commission last year over its regulation of Uber and Lyft. Flywheel claimed that the CPUC did not hold Uber and Lyft to the same standards as traditional taxis.

Meanwhile, Uber and Lyft keep branching out into more carpooling and other services, such as transporting seniors.  Lyft said it will partner with a caregiver platform, San Bruno-based CareLinx, to transport the elderly.  Both companies say the service is in high demand for seniors trying to get to medical appointments and social engagements on their own or with caregivers who may not own cars.

Community Transportation Association estimates almost 3.6 million Americans miss or delay medical care because they don’t have transportation to their appointments. Hospitals also report seeing a loss in revenue from “no-shows.”

The ride request feature will be available wherever both apps operate. Lyft services about 200 cities, and CareLinx has caregivers in some 50 metros in the U.S.

Caregivers or family members can request a Lyft ride with the CareLinx mobile app. The interface on CareLinx looks slightly different than on the standard Lyft app but rides will come from the same pool of drivers, said Dan Trigub, who manages health care partnerships at Lyft.

“This is one of the first few examples of a full Lyft integration in a third-party application. It gives the power of families to schedule a ride on behalf of the user so grandma never has to touch Lyft or know what it is,” Trigub said.

San Bruno-based CareLinx powers a platform where users can hire caregivers for their family members. The network consists of about 170,000 caregivers who help seniors with everything from making meals to housekeeping needs. The company reports logging almost 1 million hours of service from caregivers since starting in 2011.

“Seniors have not been able to take advantage of these on-demand applications,” said Sherwin Sheik, CareLinx founder and CEO.

“It was actually Lyft who got us thinking about using our service. We would not invest in this if we did not think our users wanted it. It’s not something CareLinx is making a single cent on.”

This isn’t Lyft’s first time finding business in health care: In January, the San Francisco company started working with National Medtrans Network in New York, later expanding to California and Nevada, to get people to their appointments. Lyft said it was completing 2,500 rides per week In New York City through this service. In September, Lyft partnered with senior care organization Aging2.0 to address transportation challenges and GreatCall to offer seniors a simplified way (no smartphone required) to request rides.