Category: Uber

Bills look to extract more money from Uber, Lyft

BOSTON — East Boston Rep. Adrian Madaro was running late Tuesday morning to testify on legislation meant to address the frustrating congestion that plagues Boston’s highways and main city streets and roads because he was “stuck in traffic in the Sumner Tunnel surrounded by” cars from ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft.

Those ride-for-hire services, or transportation network companies (TNCs) as the state refers to them, have exploded in popularity and contribute to the congestion, especially single-passenger trips and trips that start or end with an empty car at the airport, Madaro said.

Once he got out of the tunnel and into the State House, Madaro was joined by Boston Rep. Jay Livingstone to pitch the Financial Services Committee on legislation (H 1039) that would change the fee structure for TNCs to generate new funding for public transit options and the communities that deal with the worst congestion.

“This situation and the fight over the roads, especially with respect to Boston, it’s really a negative feedback loop where people are discouraged with the time buses are taking to go anywhere so they’re using TNCs as and alternative to that, and that is causing buses to take even longer,” Livingstone said.

Madaro and Livingstone said the bill acknowledges that the 20 cent per TNC ride fee imposed by the Legislature in a 2016 law is insufficient and that the rigid fee structure is not flexible enough to truly mitigate the effects of TNCs.

“We now know that this fee is too low in proportion to the traffic and congestion effects these rideshares have on our city streets,” Madaro said. He added, “By switching from an outdated, low, flat fee to a dynamic percentage fee, we are more accurately accounting for the impact these rides have on our communities and our infrastructure.”

The bill would change the fee to be a percentage of the total ride cost calculated by distance and demand, Madaro said. The structure would differentiate between solo rides and pooled rides with multiple passengers by charging 6.25 percent for a solo ride and 4.25 percent for shared trips.

Madaro also filed a bill (H 1041) that would charge companies for every so-called “deadhead” ride — a ride-hailing vehicle trip taken with no passenger, contributing to congestion — at Logan International Airport.

From 2017 to 2018, the number of TNC trips increased 25 percent in Massachusetts to more than 81 million a year. The total number of rides grew across the state, but the growth was largely concentrated in the greater Boston urban core.

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh testified before the Financial Services Committee on Tuesday in support of another piece of legislation (H 1067/S 102) that would change the TNC fee structure.

The bill Walsh supported, filed by Boston Rep. Michael Moran and Winthrop Sen. Joseph Boncore, would change the TNC fee to be equal to 6.25 percent of the total ride cost for solo trips and 3 percent for shared rides. Half of the money generated from those fees would go to the city or town where the ride originated and the other half would go to the Commonwealth Transportation Fund and MassDevelopment.

Under the bill, TNC drivers who are on the road during peak travel times but do not have a passenger in the car would also be charged 20 cents per mile without a passenger.

“TNC’s should be contributing more to the public good, given the major impact they’re having on our streets. Look at the numbers: 42 million TNC rides started in Boston last year. That’s 115,000 every day. That’s more than one every second. Many of these rides happen during rush hour. And oftentimes, the pick-ups and drop-offs happen in a travel lane, including bus stops, bike lanes, and emergency vehicle areas,” Walsh said. “Increasing the assessment will help us ensure that the positives of this growing industry outweigh the negatives.”

Though the company did not testify in person on Tuesday, Uber said in a statement that it shares the goals of reducing congestion and limited greenhouse gas emissions but does not agree with the ways Walsh and others are seeking to accomplish those goals.

“We support the mayor’s goal of reducing congestion and want to continue to work with the city on innovative pilots like new pickup and dropoff zones,” Uber spokesperson Alix Anfang said in a statement. “However, rideshare vehicles represent a small fraction of cars in Boston and new taxes targeting rideshare customers punish Bostonians who don’t have a car while doing little to invest in much needed improvements to transit.”

For the Coming Year Livingstone’s Legislative Agenda Considers Both District-wide and National Issues

by Dan Murphy • February 7, 2019 •

While State Rep. Jay Livingstone conceived his legislative agenda for the new year with his constituents firmly in mind, he hopes it will also reverberate on a national level.

“I focused on priorities for the district, as well as thinking about how to continue making Massachusetts a leader, which is more necessary now because of what is happening at the federal level,” he said. “One thing that is under attack nationally is women’s reproductive rights…and we want to make it clear that Massachusetts reaffirms women’s reproductive rights.”

Livingstone and Rep. Pat Haddad have filed legislation called “The ROE Act” to protect women’s decisions regarding their own bodies, which has become the “top priority in the legislative term” for the nonprofits NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts and Planned Parenthood.

According to Planned Parenthood, “The ROE Act eliminates the onerous requirement that forces teens to obtain permission from a parent or judge to access abortion. This process causes teens to delay care or travel outside of the state, and is opposed by the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.”

Another bill that Livingstone filed with Rep. Adrian Madaro, who represents East Boston, aims to raise fees on Uber and Lyft to better align them with the fees levied on ride-sharing services in other states while using the proceeds to improve public transit, as well as bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

 “I’m excited to address improving our transportation system and discouraging use of fossil fuels,” Livingstone said. “I think this bill will help address congestion that is increasing at an exponential rate because of these services and decrease transportation pollution as a result.”

Meanwhile, Livingstone and Rep. Andy Vargas have filed new legislation t to further facilitate early voting in all elections.

“I think we should continue to make voting as easy as possible for people to increase participation,” Livingstone said.