BOSTON — Lawmakers want to carve out a larger share of revenue for communities from ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft to help relieve congestion and reduce vehicle emissions.
One proposal, filed Sen. Brendan Crighton, D-Lynn, would allow the state to charge so-called transportation network companies a new fee of 6.25% of each ride fare for single-rider trips, or 4.25% for shared trips. Cities and towns along the MBTA’s rail and bus system would be allowed to charge an additional $2.25 “congestion assessment” for each ride.
Crighton said the goal is to encourage commuters to share rides and use public transit, while bringing the state’s ride-hailing fees in line with other states.
“We’ve seen a huge increase in TNC trips in recent years,” he said. “And the reality is cities and towns aren’t getting enough to offset the impact these vehicles have on our roadways.”
The new fees would conservatively drum up nearly $42 million a year for the state’s coffers based on data from last year, according to Crighton’s office.
Under the plan, which is backed by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, the money would be split among the community where a ride began, the state and a taxi industry fund.
A proposal filed by state Rep. Nick Collins, D-South Boston, would allow local governments to charge an additional local transportation fee on top of the state’s assessment of 20 cents per ride.
Not surprisingly, ride-hailing services oppose the efforts to impose new fees and point out that the industry has contributed more than $28 million to the state and local governments in the past two years.
Uber spokesman Harry Hartfield said a recent congestion report noted ride-hailing trips accounted for only 4.4% of all trips starting in Boston.
“We share legislators’ concerns about congestion and want to work with them on a solution that truly solves the problem,” he said. “The states’ report made clear that ride-share vehicles are a small fraction of traffic in Massachusetts, and fees should not just target Bostonians who can’t afford a car or have limited access to mass transit.”
Campbell Matthews, a Lyft spokeswoman, echoed those concerns and added that piling on fees will hurt those who depend on the services.
“Any effort to further increase the cost of rideshare will hurt those who rely on Lyft and services like it for affordable rides to work, doctor’s appointments, grocery stores and more,” she said. “Policymakers should focus efforts on comprehensive solutions to the state’s transportation challenges, particularly looking at the impact of personal and commercial vehicles.”
Ride-hailing services leverage mobile apps, which customers use to find rides. Area drivers are notified of those requests. Riders pay through the app; no money changes hands.
A law signed by Gov. Charlie Baker in 2016 regulating smartphone-based transportation companies included a 20-cent fee per ride, half of which is distributed to communities annually.
Statewide, there were 81.3 million trips in 2018 — more than half of which originated in Boston, according to the Department of Public Utilities. That represents a 25% increase over the prior year and more more than $16 million worth of fees.
Lawrence reported one of the highest number of trips in 2017, the most recent year for which local data is available. It recorded 350,752 trips, and collected more than $35,000 in fees.
Salem recorded 296,348 rides last year, collecting about $30,000 in 2017; Newburyport had 26,196 rides, collecting $2,619 in fees; and Gloucester had 8,815 rides and $881 in fees.
Most trips are relatively local, with an average length of about 4.5 miles, according to state data. Of rides starting in Boston, 1.8 million left from Logan Airport.
By statute, money from the fees must be used to address the impact of the transportation services on roads, bridges and other infrastructure.
The state’s share of ride-hailing fees is earmarked for a transportation fund and to support the taxi industry, which has seen a decline in ridership as Uber and Lyft have raced into the market.
To date, the state has cleared at least 190,000 drivers to work in the ride-hailing industry, though it’s not clear if all of them are now working.
State transportation officials say the increasing popularity of services such as Uber and Lyft have contributed to congestion, but acknowledge they don’t know by how much.
Last month, Baker filed a bill that would require ride-hailing companies to provide more information about where and when they are picking up and dropping off passengers. Baker said the bill would give cities and towns better data to plan for the explosive growth of the companies, allowing them to take steps to curb congestion.
Besides alleviating traffic, the state is required to reduce its carbon output to comply with the Global Warming Solutions Act, a federal law the state adopted years ago.
More than 40 percent of the state’s carbon emissions come from trucks and personal vehicles, according to the Department of Transportation.
Matt Casale, director of transportation at the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group, said the consumer advocacy group supports efforts to get ride-hailing services to pay a larger share of traffic and environmental costs.
“They’re contributing to these problems, so we think it make sense to price their services in a way that reflects that,” he said. “The fees we’re charging right now don’t cover the impact.”
Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites.