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SF mulls Uber and Lyft fees, gas tax for transportation funding

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The Transportation Task Force 2045 is weighing possible measures for future ballots to fund Muni service, streetscape projects and bicycle infrastructure in The City. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)
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San Francisco is mulling a 20-cent-to-$1 fee for Uber and Lyft rides in San Francisco to fund local transportation, like Muni, among a suite of more than 20 potential tax measures.

From a tax on companies in the “gig economy” like TaskRabbit, to a gas tax, those measures are aimed at raising millions of dollars for Muni service, streetscape projects and bicycle infrastructure throughout The City.

The new ballot measures in the form of taxes, fees and bonds may be introduced in the near and far flung future, with some measures introduced as early as 2018 and others — including the potential Uber fee — in years to come, because they require changes in state law, according to city documents.

All of these measures and more are now being discussed by the Transportation Task Force 2045, a group of business groups, neighborhood groups, advocates and other local stakeholders, organized by the Mayor’s Office and the Board of Supervisors.

Some of those measures, which were revealed ahead of a Monday task force meeting, may never make it to the ballot, and over the coming months the task force will weigh which ones may be most effective — and which ones are most likely to succeed.

“We’ve brought the Transportation Task Force back to answer some critical questions before we propose any revenue measures,” Supervisor Aaron Peskin said in a statement. Peskin is representing both the Board of Supervisors and the San Francisco County Transportation Authority in his dual role as District 3 supervisor and SFCTA Chair.

Among those measures considered possible in 2018 are a potential 10-to 25-cent gas tax, increasing fees at city parking facilities, taxing privately owned parking lots, a city vehicle license fee of 1.35 percent, a vehicle registration fee and carbon taxes on residential and commercial utilities. Other potential 2018 taxes include a sports franchise tax or large event ticket surcharge.

Perhaps among the most controversial revenue proposals, sources on background said, are a proposed gross receipts tax that would raise as much as $23 million annually from local businesses, which may face fierce opposition from the tech sector and business interests.

A potential sales tax faces possible opposition from the far left side of the political spectrum, sources said, because they are levied against rich and poor alike.

The conflict over the gross receipts tax and sales tax are seen by stakeholders as particularly key following the defeat of the Proposition K sales tax hike by voters last November, which Mayor Ed Lee incorporated into The City budget.

That forced The City to rebalance the budget last November, to the tune of $37.5 million during the 2016 fiscal year and $155 million in the next.

Jim Lazarus, vice president of public policy at the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, told the San Francisco Examiner the group has not yet taken a position on which tax effort to back, but the chamber “have supported bond issues and sales [tax revenue measures] in [the] past.”

Bob Allen, a transportation policy expert with Urban Habitat, said, “We don’t support the general sales tax,” though he is open to considering its support if comprehensive regulations and fees were levied on ride-hail services like Uber and Lyft, to mitigate their traffic congestion impacts.

“We’re not signing off on the [sales tax] measure until we see something more comprehensive beyond 2018,” he said.

More long term revenue measures being considered include another $500 million general obligation bond, congestion pricing to charge drivers to drive in busy areas, corporate income taxes, increasing residential parking permit fees, a vehicle license fee on second vehicles and a tax on companies employing robot workers.

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