BOSTON – Tuesday, July 23, 2019 – Mayor Martin J. Walsh today offered testimony before the Joint Committee on Financial Services at the Massachusetts State House in support of legislation that better aligns transportation network companies (TNCs), such as Uber and Lyft, with the City’s mobility goals. Additional revenue generated would be invested in local roads and transit, including projects that make Boston’s streets better for people who walk, bike, drive or take transit.
The bill is part of Mayor Walsh’s legislative package, which builds upon Boston’s work to ensure equity, opportunity and resilience for all residents by strengthening current systems and creating new tools to adapt, mitigate and invest in local transportation and the environment.
Mayor Walsh testifies in support of “An Act relative to transportation network company rider assessments”
“Transportation network companies have changed the way people travel. In some ways, they’ve made things more convenient but they’ve also increased congestion and added to the emissions that harm air quality and cause climate change,” said Mayor Walsh. “We have to find ways to make rideshares part of a sustainable and equitable transportation system, and this bill would help us do that.”
An Act relative to transportation network company rider assessments, sponsored by Representative Michael Moran and Senator Joseph Boncore, would change the current per-trip assessment charged to TNCs operating in Massachusetts to better align it with the City’s and Commonwealth’s efforts to address congestion and lower emissions:
Incentivizing shared trips: passengers would be charged 6.25 percent of the total fare for single-occupancy trips and 3 percent of the total fare for shared trips. Half of the revenue would go to the city or town in which the miles were driven, and the other half would go to the Commonwealth Transportation Fund and MassDevelopment.
Reducing congestion: TNCs would be charged a per-mile fee of 20 cents for all miles traveled with no passengers during peak hours. Half of the revenue would go to the city or town in which the miles were driven, and the other half would go to the Commonwealth Transportation Fund and MassDevelopment.
Reducing carbon emissions: all zero-emission vehicles would be exempt from the peak hour charge.
“As the TNC industry has grown it has become clear that in urban areas the service has increased congestion – particularly during rush hours – and as a consequence carbon emissions,” said Representative Michael Moran. “I am pleased to join Mayor Walsh and Senator Boncore in support of this bill which will promote shared trips to reduce congestion while also encouraging the use of zero emission vehicles.”
“I’m proud to join Mayor Walsh in supporting this bill,” said Senator Joseph Boncore. “With increased congestion on our roads, especially in East Boston and around the airport, we need to do all we can to incentivize good behavior, reduce demand and more efficiently use our roadways.”
In 2017 and 2018, more than 34 million and 42 million rideshare trips originated in Boston respectively. Currently, TNCs pay an assessment of 20 cents per ride that is distributed among municipalities, the Commonwealth’s general transportation fund, and the taxi and livery industry. Boston allocated the funds received from 2017 trips to increase street safety, including the improvement of sidewalks, markings and intersections; improving the reliability of the network with smarter signals and curb management, and; expanding access to transportation choices by enhancing the City’s bikeshare program.
The City of Boston has been piloting a program that designates curb space for ridesharing pick-ups and drop-offs, minimizing traffic disruptions that often accompany these services. Announced in the Mayor’s Boston Municipal Research Bureau Speechin March, the City dedicated a zone for ridesharing activity in the Fenway, allowing these vehicles to continue to offer their transportation services, but in a way that supports the City of Boston’s Vision Zero safety goals and helps to improve traffic flow on Boston streets.
Below are Mayor Walsh’s remarks, as prepared for delivery:
Thank you, Chairman James Welch, Chairman Jamie Murphy, and members of the committee. My name is Martin J. Walsh and I’m the Mayor of Boston. I’m here to testify in support of H.1067/S.102: An Act Relative to Transportation Network Company Rider Assessments, sponsored by Representative Michael Moran and Senator Joseph Boncore.
This legislation would help us build a transportation system that works for everyone— for residents, for our economy, and for our environment. I welcome the opportunity to talk about why these changes are necessary.
Transportation network companies have changed the way people travel. In some ways, they’ve made things more convenient. But they’ve also increased congestion, especially during rush hour. And they’re adding to the emissions that harm air quality and cause climate change. We have to find ways to make rideshares part of a sustainable and equitable transportation system. This bill would help us do that.
This legislation would improve upon the TNC regulations already in place. It would adjust the assessment to better reflect and mitigate the impact on our streets and our environment. Right now, 20 cents per ride is collected and split between cities and towns, MassDevelopment, and the Commonwealth Transportation Fund. Last year, the City of Boston took in $3.4 million from TNC assessments. We are re-investing this money directly into things that make our entire transportation system better, whether you walk, bike, drive, take the T, or use ride shares. This is a good start. But honestly, it doesn’t go far enough.
TNC’s should be contributing more to the public good, given the major impact they’re having on our streets. Look at the numbers: 42 million TNC rides started in Boston last year. That’s 115,000 every day. That’s more than one every second. Many of these rides happen during rush hour. And oftentimes, the pick-ups and drop-offs happen in a travel lane, including bus stops, bike lanes, and emergency vehicle areas. Increasing the assessment will help us ensure that the positives of this growing industry outweigh the negatives.
As we increase the assessment, we also want to encourage more shared trips and fewer solo trips. This bill proposes an assessment of about $1 per solo trip, or 6.25% of the cost of the ride. For shared trips, the assessment is cut in half, to three percent.
Additionally, this bill discourages empty trips during rush hour. How many of you have been sitting in traffic behind an Uber or a Lyft with no passengers in it? I’m sure we all have. We want to address this by introducing a 20 cent per mile charge if you’re driving around without a passenger during peak commuting hours.
Finally, this bill also supports our efforts to make Boston carbon neutral by 2050. Of course, more carpooling is better for the environment. Our bill also provides a financial incentive for zero-emission vehicles, such as electric vehicles. Zero-emission vehicles will be exempt from any rush hour charge.
This legislation builds on the good work we’re already doing at the City level. We’ve got dedicated pick-up/drop-off zones for rideshares. We’re installing dedicated bus- and bike-only lanes. We’ve made historic capital investments in bike infrastructure, in electric vehicle infrastructure, and in road safety measures. And we created a Transit Team at City Hall to support the State’s work on the T. Making TNC’s work better for our city is the next logical and necessary step.
This is one of several current bills that aim to improve the TNC situation in Boston and Massachusetts. I thank all of the advocates, the lawmakers, the Governor, and everyone who is also putting forward solutions. Together, we’re showing that there’s a growing demand for a better system— one that works for residents, for our economy, and for our environment.
I respectfully ask you to move forward those bills that best improve TNC regulations. I welcome conversation on how to achieve their goals. Thank you for the opportunity to speak. I’m happy to answer any questions you have.