Tax on Uber, Lyft rides rolls toward the ballot

Measure has support of Mayor London Breed, most of Board of Supervisors

San Francisco voters should get a chance this November to impose a tax on passenger rides by companies like Uber and Lyft to help pay for improvements to street safety and public transit.

Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Aaron Peskin jointly introduced Tuesday a proposed November ballot measure, titled the “Traffic Congestion Mitigation Tax,” to impose a surcharge on ride hail rides of 3.25 percent or 1.5 percent, depending on the type of ride.

The measure is expected to raise up to $35 million annually for transit and street safety projects to help with the city’s goal of having no pedestrian deaths by 2024, a campaign known as Vision Zero.

It would go into effect Jan. 1, 2020 and expire November 5, 2045.

“This measure will invest in our public transportation, continue to make our streets safer, and reduce congestion so that people can get around easier,” Breed said in a statement. “This is a collaborative approach to advance San Francisco’s transit-first policy and mitigate the impact of [Transportation Network Company] trips on our streets.”

Both Uber and Lyft support the measure.

The 2017 Transportation 2045 task Force identified a $22 billion revenue gap over the next 27 years for the public transit system. The estimate “encompasses everything from roadway maintenance needs and unfunded bicycle projects, to Muni service and facility challenges and funding gaps for large regional projects like Caltrain’s Downtown Extension,” the task force report said.

“This requires strategic investment from all of us to prioritize solutions that get people out of their cars, onto public transportation and safely walking and biking,” Peskin said.

The same task force report found that “that TNCs accounted for roughly 15 percent of intra-city trips, and an estimated 20-26 percent of vehicle trips Downtown during peak periods.” It also noted that there are an estimated 6,500 TNC vehicles on the street on an average weekday.

The measure would impose a 3.25 percent on all rides carrying a single passenger and 1.5 percent tax on shared rides that originate in San Francisco.

The measure also includes an incentive to drive electric vehicles. Until December 31, 2024, the surcharge for those who drive electric vehicles is 1.5 percent, even for single passenger rides.

Half of the tax revenues would go to the Municipal Transportation Agency to pay for such things as buying Muni buses and infrastructure costs. The other half would go to the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, on whose board the members of Board of Supervisors serve, to pay for pedestrian and bicycle safety infrastructure.

To pass, it would require a two-thirds vote. Uber has said it will help pass the measure.

“Uber is pleased to reach an agreement that will bring dedicated transportation funding to San Francisco,” Uber said in a statement Tuesday. “We look forward to working with city leaders to ensure a successful campaign in 2019.”

Lyft said in a statement that they are “focused on improving transportation in cities and we recognize the importance of reliable transportation in San Francisco.”

Assemblymember Phil Ting introduced legislation last year to authorize the tax measure and it was signed into law by then Governor Jerry Brown.

“San Francisco’s ability to move its people around safely in a growing economy is vital,” Ting said in a statement. “But the city’s current transportation revenue streams can’t keep up with the demand.”

It takes at least six votes of the 11 member board to place the measure on the ballot. Ten supervisors have already signed on in support.

• In other business Tuesday, Supervisor Vallie Brown asked the City Attorney to draft legislation to ban San Francisco from doing business with and restricting city travel to states with abortion restrictions.

The proposal comes after Alabama last week adopted what’s considered the most restrictive abortion law in the nation. The law faces a court challenge.

Brown wants to ensure states that pass restrictive abortion laws do not benefit from The City’s tax dollars.

“If these states can’t hear our voices, we will speak directly to their bank accounts and their bottom lines,” Brown said.

To that end, she asked the City Attorney to draft legislation to limit city business and travel “to states that pass abortion bans.”

“By bans I mean any state that enacts a law banning abortion prior to viability, even if the state law includes some exceptions,” she said.

The proposal is similar to what The City did in 2016 when it banned city-funded travel and contracts involving states with anti-LGBT laws. As of April, that law impacts 10 states, including Alabama and Texas.

• Supervisor Matt Haney also introduced a charter amendment for the November ballot Tuesday to create a Homelessness Oversight Commission for the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, which launched in August 2016.

“Homelessness is our most urgent crisis as a city, yet the department that oversees our response to this crisis has less oversight, accountability, and transparency over its budget, Director, and policies than nearly every other City Department,” Haney said in a statement.

The commission would have seven members and launch in March 2020. The mayor would appoint three members to the commission, the Board of Supervisors three members and the San Francisco Unified School District’s Board of Education one member.

Like other city commissions, the body would have the power to recommend candidates to the mayor for who should serve as the department head.

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