TNCs TODAY | FAQ

What does the data tell us?

The data gives us the first comprehensive estimates of the number of Transportation Network Company (TNC, e.g., Uber, Lyft) trips on San Francisco streets. This gives us a sense of the volume, location and time-of-day characteristics of TNC activity in SF.

A major finding is that TNCs are operating citywide, but are concentrated in the most congested locations and times of day, e.g. the downtown core.

What does the data not tell us? What needs further study?

The report does not include regional trips (i.e., TNC trips with either an origin or destination outside of San Francisco).

The report does not evaluate how much TNC trips contribute to congestion or affect transit operations and ridership. It does not provide information on TNC vehicle occupancies, customer trip purposes, demographic characteristics, or costs.

Subsequent reports and studies by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (Transportation Authority) and others will address important analytic and policy topics in depth, including the effects of TNCs on safety, roadway congestion, public transit operations and ridership, disabled access, and equity.

What is the source of the data?

Researchers at Northeastern University collected the data. Transportation Authority staff analyzed the data and produced the “TNCs Today” report.

How was the data collected?

The raw data for this report came from researchers at Northeastern University who used a systematic method to collect data from Lyft and Uber via the companies’ Application Program Interfaces (APIs).

How do you know the data is valid?

Transportation Authority staff expended significant effort to clean and de-duplicate the Uber and Lyft data and the resulting imputed trips appear to suggest reasonable profiles of TNC activity. It shows patterns of use over time and space that make sense, based on our experience looking at decades of data about transportation usage.

The researchers have applied this method previously, and have published their approach and results in peer-reviewed academic journals.

We would welcome verifiable data from the TNCs or CPUC that would validate or refute the assumption that these changes in supply are a good approximation of SF trip activity.

How will the Transportation Authority use this data?/What is next?

The purpose of the “TNCs Today” report is to:

  • Provide information on TNC activity in San Francisco to help the Transportation Authority fulfill its role as Congestion Management Agency for San Francisco.
  • Inform the public, the Transportation Authority Board (comprised of the 11 members of the Board of Supervisors), and policy-makers in other arenas about the size, location and time-of-day characteristics of San Francisco’s TNC markets.
  • Serve as the foundation of future research on San Francisco TNC activity and impacts.This data will help inform future Transportation Authority reports.

The study does not distinguish between Uber and Lyft in your TNC data. Why?

The intent of this study was to better understand the overall TNC market, not to look for differences between the individual TNC companies.

Were Lyft or Uber consulted on this report?

No. Prior to undertaking this research collaboration, Transportation Authority staff met with representatives of Uber and Lyft and requested citywide trip data. These requests were denied.

In addition, Transportation Authority staff requested TNC trip information that Uber and Lyft report to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), and these requests were also denied. The companies’ past denials to provide data was a primary reason that we began work with the Northeastern University researchers.

Are you continuing to work with the same Northeastern researchers?

Yes, we are continuing to work with the researchers.

How much traffic congestion do TNCs cause?

This report does not identify the extent to which TNCs affect congestion. Many factors contribute to increased congestion—population and employment growth, construction activity, increased delivery and other transportation services, and TNCs.

Does the data contain personal information?

No. The data are aggregated and averaged, and contain no personally identifiable information.

When was the data collected?

The data was collected from mid-November to mid-December 2016.

Why did you select the time period that you did?

It is typical to collect data transportation data in the fall and spring, when schools are in session.  Data was collected for almost six weeks, including over weekdays, weekends and the Thanksgiving holiday. Data from the holiday week was excluded when preparing the information used in this report.

Why didn’t you get more data covering a longer period of time?

The Northeastern researchers needed to deploy their technology in other cities to collect additional data for their research, which precluded on-going monitoring in San Francisco.

Will you be releasing more of this type of data in the future?

There are no plans to release more data at this time. However, the Transportation Authority will be using these and other data to address important analytic and policy questions regarding TNC policies, best practices, safety, impacts on transit demand and operations, congestion and air quality, disabled access and equity and land use and curb management.