Legislature proposes new Uber, Lyft fees
Bill calls for added 20-cent fee in 14 Boston-area communities
THE LEGISLATURE approved new fees on Uber and Lyft rides Wednesday morning and required the companies to provide much more detailed information on rideshare drivers and their work activities.
The current state fee per ride is 20 cents, but the legislation increases that amount to 40 cents for shared rides, $1.20 for non-shared rides, and $1 extra on rides in luxury vehicles. The legislation also creates a new 20-cent public transit access fee on Uber and Lyft rides that begin and end in an area encompassing 14 Greater Boston communities.
Sen. Joseph Boncore of Winthrop, the lead Senate negotiator on the transportation bond bill, said the public transit access fee is intended to incentivize people who can use readily available public transit to do so but not penalize people who use transit to get near their destination and then use ride-hailing apps to go the last mile to their destination.
Alix Anfang, a spokesperson for Uber, issued a statement that did not criticize the new fees but suggested the late-night negotiations caused lawmakers to fail to include a provision they had agreed to and garbled another.
Uber, based on oncversations with government officials, had expected a provision to be added allowing the Department of Public Utilities to allow surge pricing during public emergencies if the agency felt it was warranted. The legislation also defined luxury vehicles as livery vehicles, which means hundreds of livery vehicle drivers who serve both luxury and regular customers may be cut off from the market of regular customers.
Ride-hailing apps provided 91.1 million rides in 2019, according to a state report, and the existing 20-cent fee on rideshares raised $18.2 million.
The 14 communities where the public transit access fee will apply, according to a reference in the legislation, to Arlington, Belmont, Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Chelsea, Everett, Malden, Medford, Milton, Newton, Revere, Somerville, and Watertown. Quincy and Braintree are not included even though the Red Line runs through them.
The 2019 state report on ride-hailing said the 14 communities include cities and towns where the apps are most heavily used. The top four are Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, and Brookline, according to the report. Newton, Medford, Everett, Malden, Revere, Chelsea, and Watertown are in the top 20.
Boncore said all of the money raised by the public transit access fee will go to the MBTA and can be used to offset the cost of implementing a means-tested fare structure — lower fares for riders with low incomes. A means-tested fare structure is authorized in the legislation.The transportation bond bill also requires Uber and Lyft to provide a lot more information to the state on the rides they are providing, including miles driven by drivers while waiting for a customer, miles driven to pick up a customer, and extensive detail on pickups and dropoffs. Lawmakers say the information is needed to track whether ride-hailing apps are contributing to congestion.
The legislation splits the revenue from the new fee structure three ways – 25 percent to the city or town in which the ride originated, 50 percent to the Commonwealth Transportation Fund, and 25 percent to the Transit Authority Fund. The legislation also requires that $6 million a year from the funds going to the Commonwealth Transportation Fund be used to supported directed e taxi and livery businesses.