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San Francisco to tax Lyft, Uber rides in city

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“This is a win-win for everyone,” says city supervisor

A sign indicating the pick up spot in a garage for Lyft and Uber. Photo by Jonathan Weiss

At a Tuesday Board of Supervisors meeting, Supervisor Aaron Peskin announced he will drop his proposed November ballot initiative taxing ride-hailing companies, like Lyft and Uber, in favor of an alternative per-ride tax on trips that start in San Francisco.

In a bigger surprise, Peskin also says that both Lyft and Uber have already agreed to go along with the proposal. Both tech mammoths preferred his most recent proposal to his previous, more aggressive ride-hailing tax plan.

“What a long strange trip this one has been,” Peskin said Tuesday, noting that the per-ride tax was suggested to him by Supervisor Jane Kim and modeled on similar plans from other cities.

But state law presently prevents San Francisco from enacting such a fee. So Peskin says San Francisco Assembleymember Phil Ting and State Sen. Scott Wiener have agreed to introduce a bill in Sacramento that will open the way for the local proposal.

Cities in other states have tried similar schemes already: Portland charges riders 50 cents per trip on ride-hailing services, using that money to enforce laws specific to those companies. Peskin’s proposal would raise funds to cover city costs related to increased road miles from ride services.

“This is a win-win for everyone,” said the supervisor, who also chairs the SF County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) Board, in a press release. “I’m optimistic that this concession on the part of the TNC’s signals a shift in their corporate culture and a willingness to work with—not fight with—local governments.”

Previously, Peskin had proposed applying the city’s gross receipts tax to rides. Now, rides that begin in the city will be subject to an extra fee of between 1.5 percent and 3.25 percent, depending on how many riders are coming along. Ride service specifically aimed at disabled riders will be exempt.

Note that, as the San Francisco Chronicle explains, voters will have to approve the new tax by a two-thirds majority in 2019. But if both Lyft and Uber continue to back the plan there won’t be much of anyone left to campaign against it.