Cities eye higher fees on Uber, Lyft rides

Pressure building in Mass. to take similar action

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.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

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.