Bay Area cities consider rideshare tax

In the same way consumers eventually had to pay sales taxes on internet purchases, it looks like Uber and Lyft riders are heading for a tax on their trips.

Other major cities have been assessing such taxes for a while or already have them in place. Now, Oakland and San Francisco are looking at it. The question is: could such taxes result in far fewer ride share cars to serve you?

Despite reports of clogging city streetsdeplorably low wages for drivers and a laundry list of controversies for Uber, Uber and Lyft revolutionized urban mobility bringing a lot of on demand, lower cost transportation.    

Oakland is following the lead of some major cities in other states, to impose tax on each Uber or Lyft ride. New York City is proposing a $2 to $5 per ride fee. Philadelphia is looking at a 1.4% tax per ride and Massachusetts is looking at a 20 cents a ride tax. 

"Our proposal only charges at the point of pick up. So, if the pick up happens in Oakland, the 50 cents gets charged in Oakland," said Oakland City Councilperson Rebecca Kaplan. "If other cities impose a similar rule, for pick ups only, you would be charged only one tax." 

Oakland feels the tax is fair.

"They're using our streets and our sidewalks to do their business and they're not paying taxes. Other businesses in our city that make money here are paying taxes to the city," said Ms. Kaplan.

Public opinion and rider opinion is clearly split on this issue.

"If they raise the price I might not take it no more," said a young lady named Brianna. "At some point in time we probably were gonna pay a fee. I think it's worth it just for the safety of it. I use it more so if you're not able to drive or just safety at night," said Christina Lara.

"The prices they charge right now without that fee is convenient and it's economical. So, I don't see why they would want to do that because it would make me not want to take Uber," said Erica Haywood.  

"I don't think it would affect my decision either way. I mean, for the safety of it. You know, if you're drinking, you don't want to drive," said Rita Hernandez.

"If it makes Uber more expensive, it would make me ride Uber less," said attorney Elaine Videa.

"I would take it less because everybody just wants to raise prices on everything these days," said Jeremiah Garrett-Pinguelo.

Clarissa Cabansagan, Mobility Policy Director of Transform, a non-profit transportation and planning organization, says studies on such taxes are pretty clear. "It depends on how much it costs. It will take a lot, by way of a tax, two to five dollars like New York is talking about, for it to actually impact the number of rides.," said Cabansagan.

The position of people in the ride sharing business is that state law puts regulation of these companies under the California Public Utilities Commission. For now, they say, the cities have no right to assess such taxes.