Cities eye higher fees on Uber, Lyft rides

Higher fees on Uber and Lyft rides appear to be gaining some momentum around the country as a way of raising money and dealing with congestion, and they are likely to be part of the discussion here in Massachusetts as the Legislature takes up the question of new transportation revenues.

In Chicago, the current fee is 72 cents per ride. Mayor Lori Lightfoot is proposing to reduce the fee to 60 cents for those who share a ride and increase it to $1.25 for those who don’t. She also wants to add a surcharge for trips in the downtown area of 60 cents for shared rides and $1.75 for solo rides. That would mean a solo ride downtown would cost an extra $3.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan is proposing to increase her city’s ride-hailing fee from 24 cents a ride to 75 cents and wants to use the proceeds to build affordable housing and invest in transit projects. She also wants to establish minimum wages and benefits for rideshare drivers.

New York City currently charges a rideshare fee of $2.75 in Manhattan and plans to begin assessing a congestion fee on personal vehicles entering Manhattan below 60th Street in 2021.

California hasn’t hiked fees on Uber and Lyft. But the California legislature may end up increasing the cost of a ride indirectly by passing a law that requires gig companies, including Uber and Lyft, to hire workers as employees and not independent contractors.

Massachusetts currently assesses a 20-cent fee on all Uber and Lyft rides, with 10 cents going to the municipality where the ride originates, 5 cents to a state transportation fund, and 5 cents for efforts to prop up the taxi industry. In 2018, there were 81.3 million rides provided in Massachusetts, 52 percent of them originating in Boston. Gov. Charlie Baker recently estimated the total number of rides will rise to 100 million this year.

Baker hasn’t called for increasing the ride-hailing fee, but he is pushing legislation that would give policymakers more information about where and when people take Uber and Lyft rides so municipalities could better address the congestion they cause.

The governor’s secretary of transportation, Stephanie Pollack, has backed higher fees on Uber and Lyft rides as chair of the board of the Massachusetts Port Authority. The authority, which oversees Logan International Airport, next week plans to start segregating Uber and Lyft pickups and drop-offs in the central parking garage to reduce congestion at terminal curbsides. In December, the airport plans to start assessing a $3.25 fee on all ride-hailing pickups and drop-offs; previously, only pickups incurred the fee.

The House and Senate leaders of the Legislature’s Transportation Committee say everything, including higher fees on ride-hailing apps, is on the table as they craft transportation funding legislation. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has called for higher fees on ride-hailing apps.  And two members of the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board reiterated on Monday that higher fees on the apps should be considered.

BRUCE MOHL


BEACON HILL

A judge ruled that Gov. Charlie Baker overstepped his authority in banning nicotine vaping products, but allows the ban to continue, at least temporarily. (State House News) Two thirds of Massachusetts voters approve of Baker’s temporary ban on the sale of vaping products, according to a WBUR/MassINC Polling Group survey. (WBUR)

The House unveils an education funding bill minus a controversial Senate amendment on accountability. It looks like the two chambers are on a collision course. (CommonWealth)

Key lawmakers find a lot to like in Baker’s health care bill. (CommonWealth)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Many in Dudley Square see more pressing problems than the idea of changing the historically black area’s name to Nubian Square, but Sadiki Kambon points to Chinatown as an example of how a name can define a neighborhood. (WGBH

People show up in masks for a City Council hearing in Boston on a proposal to ban people from wearing masks at protests. (Boston Globe)

Haverhill City Councilor Joseph Bevilacqua has proposed a zoning ordinance banning cannabis cafes and other businesses where marijuana could be consumed on-premises. (Eagle-Tribune

Next year, Provincetown will be joining a growing number of cities and towns across the state that have opted to honor Native Americans on the second Monday in October — instead of the European explorer Christopher Columbus. (Cape Cod Times) 

A local watchdog wonders whether an Airbnb co-founder’s $1 million donation to Boston Latin Academy, from which he graduated, is aimed at currying favor from the city as new short-stay regulations take effect. (Boston Herald)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

The New York Times reports that a meeting with Hungary’s autocratic, pro-Russian leader, Viktor Orban, got President Trump into a combative mood toward Ukraine before the interactions now at the center of the impeachment probe. 

Lawyers for Liberians living in the United States argue that the Trump administration’s decision to end residency for 4,000 people from the West African country was motivated by President Trump’s racial bias. (WGBH)

ELECTIONS

During a televised debate in the mayor’s race in Taunton, Rep. Shaunna O’Connell appeared to misstate the facts when questioned about the heads-up she received from fellow Republian Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito that the current mayor would be leaving to take another post. O’Connell insisted everyone knew the mayor might be leaving, and said her rival, City Councilor Estelle Borges, was already planning a run, citing a Facebook post to that effect and her decision to hold off filing her nomination papers for City Council. Borges said she didn’t file the Facebook post and did file her nomination papers. (WPRI)

Democrats are fretting about whether their presidential field includes a candidate who can knock off Trump as they wonder whether a late-entry savior could emerge. (New York Times

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker held a fundraiser near Fenway Park on Monday, telling supporters his ideas about gun violence, climate change, and maternal health care. (Associated Press)

Elizabeth Warren releases a K-12 education plan that calls for a huge infusion of federal money in schools and backs off her earlier support for test-based accountability and charter schools. (Washington Post)

Boston City Council candidate Jennifer Nassour wants to talk about municipal services but is finding it hard to escape questions about her Republican affiliation in the age of Trump. (Boston Globe)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

It may not come as news to anyone, but home prices and rents in Boston have been rising faster than incomes. (Boston Herald)

EDUCATION

Holyoke Community College opens a cannabis education center. (MassLive)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Months after initially floating the idea of expanding into downtown Quincy, Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Milton has confirmed that it plans to open a 17,000-square-foot outpatient medical facility in Quincy Center by the spring. (Patriot Ledger) 

Boston-based Vertex Pharmaceuticals won fast federal approval for a new combination drug that is expected to help 90 percent of patients with cystic fibrosis. (Boston Globe)

ARTS/CULTURE

Second in a CommonWealth series: Artists need affordable space to exhibit their art and many retailers want art on their walls. But art gallery owners in Provincetown are up in arms, saying retailers are acting like galleries without facing any of the regulatory requirements. 

TRANSPORTATION

More apologies from the T after the Orange Line remained closed Monday morning in the wake of a Sunday night tunnel collision involving a contractor’s employees. On the issue of safety in general, T GM Steve Poftak criticizes himself for spending too much time focusing on meetings of the Fiscal and Management Control Board. (CommonWealth)

T notes: Revenue discussion still percolating…Bus on-time performance comes under fire….Aiello says some form of regional rail is coming….T spending $33 million to refurbish out-of-service commuter rail coaches. (CommonWealth)

CASINOS

To entice more visitors to its casino, Encore Boston Harbor starts offering free or heavily discounted trips to the casino by bus and ferry. (CommonWealth)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, whose case served as a brutal wake-up call to the Registry of Motor Vehicles in Massachusetts, was indicted on 23 charges by a New Hampshire grand jury for the June crash that killed seven motorcyclists. (Associated Press

A State Police trooper who was found by a federal jury to have discriminated against a black recruit is continuing to vet recruits for the department. (Boston Globe)

A 16-year-old boy from Lawrence allegedly took someone’s car even though he is not licensed; struck and killed 57-year-old pedestrian Timothy Lafferty; fled the scene; and made verbal threats against a witness. (Eagle-Tribune

MEDIA

News outlets financed by political groups are popping up across the country. (Nieman Journalism Lab) 

Check out the Colorado news landscape and the debate there over public funding. (The Colorado Independent)