SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – San Francisco on Monday ordered Uber and Lyft to turn over records on its driving practices, as City Attorney Dennis Herrera expressed concern about the ride-sharing companies’ compliance with local and state laws.
The subpoenas come less than a month after Herrera sued Uber in state court to force it to relinquish information about its drivers in San Francisco – including their names and addresses – to determine whether they have obtained the required registration to operate in the city.
Uber is fighting the case, claiming the city’s public website of registered businesses in San Francisco could expose drivers to harassment.
The companies have 15 days to comply with this new order or face fines or other penalties.
In a statement, Herrera said he is concerned about the number of Uber and Lyft drivers on city streets, saying the volume has led to traffic snarls as drivers double-park to pick up fares.
“We’ve all seen it: cars and bikes swerving to avoid an Uber or Lyft double-parked or camped in the bike lane,” Herrera said. “It’s not just a headache. It’s a hazard to everyone using the street.”
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is also worried about congestion.
“We are hearing a growing number of complaints from residents, businesses, and our own traffic enforcement staff and Muni operators about the behavior of these drivers and the congestion and pollution caused by the sheer volume of these vehicles on our city’s streets,” the agency’s director of transportation Ed Reiskin said in a statement.
In an email, Uber spokeswoman Eva Behrend said there are other reasons besides its drivers are contributing to the city’s traffic problem.
“We’re more than happy to work with the city to address congestion, but it should be a comprehensive solution including construction, the city’s population increase, and the rise of online delivery services,” Behrend said.
Alluding to Uber’s legal fight with the city over driver information, she added, “Also, given the fact that the city posts home addresses of drivers on its public website, we have serious concerns about providing personal data that the city refuses to protect.”
In a 2015 SFMTA travel survey, Uber and Lyft rides accounted for just 2 percent of trips in San Francisco. Twenty-five percent of respondents said they walk, and 24 percent take public transit. Seventy percent of San Francisco respondents said they own or have access to a car.
But Herrera also said he’s worried about drivers commuting hundreds of miles from as far as the Central Valley and Southern California just to make extra money driving for Uber or Lyft, citing a San Francisco Chronicle investigation that said drivers sometimes work 12 to 16 hours in the city on top of their long commutes.
“These fatigued drivers are not only a threat to themselves, but to San Francisco pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers,” Herrera said. “Policies that encourage or turn a blind eye to drowsy driving by drivers with little or no familiarity with San Francisco’s roads or weather conditions make our city less safe. They are a public nuisance.”
In an email, city attorney spokesman John Coté said the city would do all it can to make sure Uber and Lyft turn over their records.
“We’ll take all appropriate legal steps to ensure compliance with the subpoenas,” he said.
Herrera has also requested records from the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates “transportation network carriers” like Uber and Lyft, on these companies’ effects on traffic, parking, pollution and pedestrian safety, whether they provide service to disabled and low-income people, the average distance drivers travel before starting a shift, and drivers’ use of driveways, transit-only lanes, bike lanes or shoulders for picking up and unloading passengers.
His request seeks all annual reports submitted by Uber and Lyft to the commission since 2013.
In an email, Lyft spokeswoman Chelsea Harrison said the company just received and is reviewing the subpoena.
“We are currently reviewing the subpoena, but Lyft has always been focused on improving transportation access for people across all cities in which we operate. In San Francisco, nearly 30 percent of rides take place in underserved neighborhoods and 20 percent of Lyft rides begin or end at a public transit station,” Harrison said. “We also have a track record of working collaboratively with policymakers who regulate us, including the CPUC here in California, to ensure that our service complements existing transportation options.”