A local city council member is beginning to float the idea of taxing ridehailing companies like Uber and Lyft as a possible way to raise millions of dollars and help pay for local public transportation and infrastructure improvements.
If the effort is successful, Oakland could become the first city in California—Uber and Lyft’s home state—to impose such a tax. However, it’s not clear whether Oakland or any other city in the Golden State has the authority to do so under current state rules.
Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan told the East Bay Express that she wants the city council to put forward a ballot measure that would tax such rides.
“The power to tax is a separate power regardless of whether or not you can regulate something,” said Kaplan in an interview with the alt-weekly. “They’re using our streets to do business, and we don’t currently have any revenue from it.”
For now, no California city taxes on a per-ride basis—although airports are allowed to impose a pickup and drop-off fee. That fee at Oakland International Airport, for instance, is $3.70, paid by the passenger.
Other American cities, such as Seattle and Chicago, currently impose add-on fees ranging from 14 cents to 40 cents per trip. Since 2016, Massachusetts has imposed a five-cent fee to subsidize the state’s taxi industry.
A similar proposal in nearby San Francisco, projecting a fee of $0.20 to $1 per ride, would allow the city to collect an estimated $12.5 to $62.5 million annually. However, an October 2017 city analysis noted that San Francisco “cannot initiate locally without state authorizing legislation” and that the fee “may disproportionately impact lower-income households.”
Kaplan, who has a law degree from Stanford University, insisted to the Express that Oakland and other cities do have such legal authority. She did not immediately respond to Ars’ request for comment.
“We have not seen the ordinance, so it’s too early for Uber to share an official statement,” said Uber spokesman Davis White in an email, although he declined to speak further on the record.
Meanwhile, Chelsea Harrison, a Lyft spokeswoman, emailed: “In California, Lyft is regulated at the state level by the Public Utilities Commission and currently pays fees to the CPUC. A city specific tax does not exist anywhere across the state. At Lyft, we remain focused on working to make transportation more affordable and convenient for people across the Bay Area and urge local leaders to join us in these efforts.” View article comments