Catching a late-night ride home from downtown SLO can be a mess. Here’s the plan to fix it

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To help keep riders safe, Uber has published tips that a ride-share passenger can do to stay safe.

If you’ve ever navigated the downtown San Luis Obispo corridor late at night, you know it can be a bit tricky as revelers try to catch a ride home on Uber, Lyft or in a taxicab.

The city is hoping a new plan will create a little order to the chaos.

The SLO City Council unanimously passed a one-year pilot program Tuesday creating two new dedicated areas for late-night passenger loading.

Pickup and drop-off zones will be created on a busy section of Higuera Street, as well as on Chorro Street outside the Luna Red restaurant and bar. The city expects the change to take place Oct. 1.

The city will still allow public curb parking by day and into the night, but between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m., the street-side zone will switch to passenger loading only. The public will be notified by signs and drivers will have five-minute windows to drop off and pick up passengers.

The Higuera Street section would encompass curb space outside Frog & Peach Pub, SLO Brew, Mother’s Tavern and Buffalo Pub & Grill.

The change serves to address complaints about congestion from ride-sharing drivers that the city’s downtown core has become cumbersome and potentially dangerous when coordinating rides.

Drivers pick up people in various lanes, sometimes the middle of the street.

“Photos taken by SLO police officers show cars backed up and blocked lanes from the traffic,” said Tim Bochum, the city’s deputy director of transportation. “It can be very difficult to manage.”

Currently, parking is prohibited downtown between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. for street sweeping. That’s why the passenger loading zones will terminate at 3 a.m., according to SLO officials.

Uber driver Ryan Perron ferries passanger Megan Hannon from Cal Poly to downtown San Luis Obispo on a Friday evening in 2015. Joe Johnston jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

The span of the locations for the new zones will be the 700 block of Higuera between Garden and Broad streets and the 1000 block of Chorro.

Bochum said city staff initially considered a 10 p.m. start time, but ultimately opted for 11 p.m. to allow extra time for those dining to get to their vehicles before the zone change.

“In consultation with Downtown SLO, staff is recommending that the late-night passenger zone program be a pilot program for 12 months and be evaluated during this period to determine if it should be made a permanent program,” Bochum wrote in a city staff report. “If the pilot program needs modifications, staff will return to Council and provide recommended adjustments.”

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Nick Wilson covers the city of San Luis Obispo and has been a reporter at The Tribune in San Luis Obispo since 2004. He also writes regularly about K-12 education, Cal Poly, Morro Bay and Los Osos. He is a graduate of UC Santa Barbara and UC Berkeley and is originally from Ojai.