Usually insistent upon being considered a "Transportation Network Company," which is to say a technology business and not some sort of retrograde taxi service, Uber "Technologies" has changed its tune this week at the appearance of a small advantage for taxi drivers.
As the Chronicle explains, this August the SFMTA will restrict cars traveling between Eighth and Third streets from turning onto Market Street. All vehicles will still be able to move straight ahead and cross Market, and exceptions to the turning rule will be made for taxis, emergency vehicles, paratransit vehicles, and commercial vehicles such as delivery trucks. No exceptions will be made for Uber, Lyft, et al.
The stretch of Market in question is home to four of SF's top 20 intersections for pedestrian injury collisions as well as the top two intersections for bicycle injury collisions. "This [measure] is focused very clearly on safety,” said director of the SFMTA's Sustainable Streets Division Tom Maguire. “This is about how we can get out this summer and find ways to save lives this summer.” Nicole Ferrara, who is the director of pedestrian advocacy group WalkSF, called the changes “a really simple approach that will have an immediate impact.”
Uber, however, is none too happy with the turn of events. "In just a few years, Uber and Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) like it have become an integral part of San Francisco’s transportation ecosystem. It’s an honor to call all of San Francisco home," the company wrote in an email to the public that grossly elides the facts of the new rules. For starters, the email is called "Allow Uber On Market St.," which, okay, literally no one is saying Uber can't operate on Market. You just can't make turns like emergency vehicles or taxis, which, quick refresher, are a thing which you guys have desperately fought to not be.
"We want to make sure you continue to have access to all parts of the city," Uber's plaintive email continues, "That’s why, as the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) votes on rules that would let taxis continue to operate on Market Street, but eliminate your right to use ridesharing, we need you to speak up in support of your right to ride." A spokeswoman for Uber, Eva Behrend, claims that, “cutting off riders and driver-partners from accessing this thoroughfare will increase gridlock around town, with no improvement to safety.”
No word on whether Behrend, who speaks for a company that has struggled desperately to maintain a reputation for safety, struggled to maintain a straight face when she said that.