Mayor Walsh’s Laudable Proposal to Better Regulate Ride Hailing

Image credit: Stockcatalog, via Creative Commons

Ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft increase congestion and siphon away riders — and revenue — from mass transit in cities everywhere, according to multiple studies. Boston is no exception, where a new report says these kinds of transportation network companies (TNCs) cost the MBTA $20 million per year.

As cities continue to grapple with how to regulate the growing industry and mitigate its far-reaching impacts on transportation as a whole, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is pushing the state to consider one remedy with enormous potential: Increasing fees TNCs pay cities and the state per ride.

Today, Massachusetts charges TNCs a flat $0.20 fee per ride, with half of that going to the city where the ride originated. (Meaning, Boston earns $0.10 for every TNC ride that starts within its boundaries.) That rate pales in comparison to fees in other cities. Chicago charges $0.67 per trip, while New York City charges up to $2.75 for solo rides. Yet under the Massachusetts law, the state has sole authority to collect fees from TNC; cities themselves are powerless.

In testimony Tuesday before the state’s Joint Committee on Financial Services, Walsh spoke in favor of a bill that would update that law to better reflect the impacts TNCs have on transportation as a whole, and to help incentivize more sustainable travel habits. The bill, “An Act Relative to Transportation Network Company Rider Assessments,” (H.1067 and S.102) would increase fees for peak hour and single (vs. shared) rides, thereby giving cities more revenue to invest in projects that combat congestion, increase street safety and curb the consequences of TNCs. Boston collected $3.5 million from TNCs in 2018, which the city used to fix streets and expand Blue Bikes, among other things.

We applaud Mayor Walsh’s leadership on this issue, and urge the state to pass this bill. Metro Boston faces a spiraling transportation crisis that can only be solved through bold action and increased funding, and this bill would give cities the resources they need to address this issue. 

Urgency is paramount, as TNC trips in Boston skyrocketed by 25 percent from 2017 to 2018. 

The time for action is now. Here’s how you can help:

Contact your reperesentatives, and ask them to support this bill. You can also contact the bill’s co-sponsors — Senator Joseph Boncore and Representative William Straus — to thank them for their leadership and ask that they expedite this bill in any way possible. (Please CC so we can gauge our impact.) We also encourage you to thank Mayor Walsh on Twitter or via email for taking this stand. While we don’t always see eye to eye with the mayor, on this issue we agree wholeheartedly.