Vote Yes on San Francisco Proposition D

October 31, 2019 | 1:11 pm
Black i-phone screen with ride-hailing appFlickr/
Don Anair
Deputy Director & Research Director, Clean Transportation


Proposition D is a chance for ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft to contribute to a better transportation system in San Francisco.  We at the Union of Concerned Scientists are supporting Proposition D, together with a long list of other supporters, including Uber and Lyft themselves, Mayor London Breed, the entire San Francisco Board of Supervisors, 25 other elected leaders, the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board, and 26 organizations committed to transit riders, bicycling and walking, tenants, and retirees, among other interests.

Read on for more information about what Proposition D will do and why this measure is important for reducing traffic and pollution and increasing safety and clean transportation choices. Most importantly, don’t forget to turn in your ballot by November 5, and to vote YES on Proposition D.

What is Proposition D?

The ballot initiative Proposition D will impose a small per-ride fee of 3.25% on ride-hailing trips in San Francisco. The fee will be cut in half (1.5%) for shared, pooled-rides. Rides provided in an electric vehicle would also see a reduced fee (1.5%) through 2024.

Funds raised through Prop D, approximately $30-35 million dollars annually, will support a variety of measures to help reduce traffic and congestion in San Francisco and make streets safer. These include more Muni drivers and traffic control officers, more Muni buses and trains, more bike and pedestrian safety, and more transit accessibility.

Why is Proposition D important?

Addressing pollution from transportation is the number one climate challenge in the U.S. today.  In California, despite our state’s long-standing leadership, climate emissions from transportation are still increasing.  Smart policy at all levels is needed to tackle transportation pollution while increasing personal mobility, especially for communities that are underserved by today’s system.

Ride-hailing is increasing congestion in San Francisco.  Undoubtedly, some San Francisco voters will be arriving at the polls on November 5th  by Uber or Lyft. A study by Fehr and Peers, using data from Uber and Lyft, indicates that more than 13% of the vehicle miles traveled in San Francisco are coming from Uber and Lyft.  Some of these trips are displacing personal car or taxi trips, but studies indicate that more often than not, that urban riders would have taken transit, biked, walked, or not taken the trip at all if ride-hailing was not an option. That means more cars on the road slowing down commutes for everyone.  A study for the SF Country Transportation Agency concluded that 50% of increased congestion in SF between 2010 and 2016 was attributable to ride-hailing trips.  Congestion was around long before Uber and Lyft, so they can’t shoulder all the blame, but Prop D will help ensure ride-hailing is contributing to the solutions that reduce congestion including transit, walking and biking.

Ride-hailing trips are increasing climate emissions. Ride-hailing can be part of a lower carbon, sustainable transportation system, as I outlined in my previous blog post “Can Uber and Lyft be a Climate Solution”, but today ride-hailing trips are increasing emissions. One major reason for that is that about 40% of the miles traveled by ride-hailing vehicles in California are without passengers.  These are miles driven while Uber and Lyft drivers are waiting to pick-up a passenger and traveling to the pick-up location once a ride is requested.  Preliminary estimates by the California Air Resources Board indicate a ride-hailing trip may produce 75% more climate emissions than a comparable private car trip per passenger mile.

Proposition D can incentivize and fund a cleaner and safer transportation system in San Francisco. There are two key strategies to address the challenges of ride-hailing increasing traffic and pollution. One is to make sure ride-hailing vehicles are electric and the other is to make sure more ride-hailing trips are shared, or pooled, between multiple passengers.  Prop D supports electrification and pooling of ride-hailing trips by implementing a lower fee for these types of lower carbon trips. And the fees collected from Prop D will provide funding for new Muni trains and buses, hiring more Muni drivers and traffic control officers, expanding services for elderly and people with disabilities, and create more bike lanes, safe pedestrian crossings, and traffic signals.


Proposition D alone will not solve all of San Francisco’s congestion problems or eliminate pollution from cars and trucks or fund all transit needs and improvements.  Much more needs to be done to tackle pollution from both personal vehicles and those used in ride-hailing services. And more is being done. For example, UCS is supporting the development of the Clean Miles Standard, a regulation in California to set climate pollution and zero emission vehicle standards for ride-hailing companies statewide.  But there’s no silver bullet solution.  Both city and state policy will be important and Proposition D is a small, but important step for ride-hailing to contribute to a better transportation system for San Francisco.