UPDATE 4:18 p.m.: Mayor London Breed released a statement in support of the agreement, putting The Mayor’s Office, Supervisor Aaron Peskin, Uber, Lyft and state legislators all in lockstep in support of the per-ride tax:
““I am pleased that an agreement has been reached with rideshare companies to institute a per-ride charge and avoid a divisive ballot measure,” Breed said, in a statement.
“This will create a dedicated source of revenue to alleviate congestion, improve the condition of our roads, and keep San Francisco moving. I look forward to working with our state representatives and the Board of Supervisors to pass legislation to implement this agreement.”
The original story follows:
One of Uber and Lyft’s sharpest critics in City Hall, Supervisor Aaron Peskin, has reached an agreement with Uber to withdraw his proposed gross-receipts tax of the ride-hail industry.
That tax would have appeared on November’s ballot, and all indication pointed to an easy passage. Peskin said he has agreed to withdraw the measure at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, the last before a month-long board recess, after Uber agreed to support a more targeted tax that may generate $30 million annually for San Francisco public transit.
“This is a first in California and it was a long, tough negotiation,” Peskin told the San Francisco Examiner Tuesday.
His tax effort was aimed at reducing Uber and Lyft’s impact on local traffic congestion, he said, by funding public transit. This new tax may also aid that effort, he said. “I really think that Uber and Lyft realized that there is a huge outcry for them to be part of the transportation solution in San Francisco.”
Instead of this sweeping ride-hail tax, Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) will seek state authorization to allow San Francisco to levy a targeted per-ride tax, which will directly fund The City’s public transportation. Once Ting secures state authorization, San Francisco could seek voter authorization of per-ride taxes at the ballot.
“San Francisco streets are more congested and crowded than ever,” said Ting, in a statement. “We must invest in public transit and transportation infrastructure so we can move more people around our city in the fastest and safest way possible. We need the additional revenue to make these critical transportation investments and improvements.”
But for Uber, this isn’t the type of blanket rider per-trip, flat fee they face in some cities. In fact, it’s a lot more egalitarian — even by their own measure.
“Uber is pleased to reach an agreement,” said Alex Randolph, Uber’s policy lead in Northern California, in a statement. “We appreciate the constructive and good faith negotiations with San Francisco lawmakers and we look forward to working with city and state officials to ensure a successful campaign in 2019.”
The tax essentially falls into three tiers of taxation: Uber X and Premium rides will see a 3.25 percent per-ride tax, whereas Uber Pool and Lyft Line trips, which are “shared” by multiple riders, will see a 1.5 percent per-ride tax. That’s a large bulk of Uber’s San Francisco trips, a company spokesperson pointed out.
Late night trips, which are often rides home from bars, will also fall into that lower tax tier, in order to facilitate responsible transportation choices after drinking. Trips made in hybrid vehicles and also trips originating from San Francisco “communities of concern,” which are low income neighborhoods and communities of color, will also enjoy the reduced per-ride tax.
The last category, paratransit trips and trips in fully electric vehicles, will feature no per-ride taxes.
State Senator Scott Wiener was especially appreciative of the reduced taxes around electric and hybrid vehicles. “This will give the industry a reason to shift to zero emissions,” Wiener said. He also appreciated Peskin — who has particularly criticized Uber — and the ride-hail companies coming together to hammer out an agreement.
“We’re all grownups, and you’ve got to be able to negotiate, even with your adversaries,” he said. “This legislation will give San Francisco voters a more refined, focused tool.”
The estimated $30 million in annual funding would go directly to San Francisco public transportation, unlike Peskin’s first ride-hail tax proposal, which would have gone to the general fund.
Peskin called the agreement “groudbreaking,” though it was achieved through some arm-wrestling. Peskin said he likely had the unanimous votes of his colleagues to send the gross-receipts tax to the ballot, and that polls showed voter support for it in the 60 percent range, though it only needed a simple majority to pass.
“Lyft is focused on improving transportation in cities and we recognize the importance of reliable transportation in San Francisco,” said Lyft official, Brian McGuigan, in a statement. “We are glad to have arrived at a solution that will help keep rideshare convenient and affordable and look forward to continuing these conversations with City and State officials.”
Both Peskin and an Uber spokesperson told the Examiner that they believed the agreement is the start of “turning the page” on an embittered ideological relationship, moving forward together to fund transportation in San Francisco.