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San Francisco plans to tax Lyft, Uber rides

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Ride-hailing companies onboard with proposal

Photo by Shutterstock

Supervisor Aaron Peskin says that, at today’s Board of Supervisors meeting, he will put up a ballot measure to tax Lyft and Uber rides “in order to fund street safety projects and investments in Muni service.”

Surprisingly, both ride-hailing outfits say they’re fine with the proposal—possibly because the tax takes the form of a surcharge paid by riders and not by the companies themselves. San Francisco Mayor London Breed joins Peskin in sponsoring the legislation.

If implemented, the law would add a 3.25 percent fee to single rides using Lyft, Uber, or competing ride-hailing companies.

The surcharges drops to 1.5 percent for shared rides or for rides in electric vehicles. Note that this applies specifically to pick-ups in San Francisco but not to drop-offs that start out of town.

The plan needs approval from six supervisors to move on to the November 2019 ballot. Because it’s a tax proposal put forth by the city, it will need two-thirds of the vote to pass.

In hopes of motivating voters to go along for the ride, Peskin’s office says that the plan “is estimated to raise up to $35 million annually for transit and Vision Zero safety projects.”

Since companies like Lyft and Uber generate so much traffic in San Francisco, the argument goes that those trips should contribute materially to meeting the city’s other transit needs.

”We all know congestion in San Francisco is terrible and everyone needs to be a part of the solution, including the TNC companies, users and the city,” said Peskin in emailed comments Tuesday. The supervisor began floating the tax proposal last year.

Earlier this month, the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances published research by the University of Kentucky’s college of engineering that concluded, “Between 2010 and 2016, weekday vehicle hours of delay increased [in San Francisco] by 62 percent compared to 22 percent” in a model simulation of city traffic without ride-hailing app users.

In 2017, the San Francisco County Transportation Authority estimated that San Franciscans were taking as many as 170,000 trips using ride apps on an average weekday, roughly 15 percent of all trips in the city and about 20 percent of all miles driven.