Cities have required taxis to give logs of their rides to regulators for a long time. New York, Toronto, Chicago, Seattle, and others ask for taxi-like data from ride-hailing companies such as Uber, Lyft, and Via; now, DC might join them. However, it won't follow through on an earlier proposal to encourage carpooling on these ride-hailing services.
The draft DC budget, released around 9 pm Monday night by Chairman Phil Mendelson, includes legislative language requiring these companies to provide:
A log of trips performed by private vehicle-for-hire operators utilizing the digital dispatch services of the private vehicle-for-hire company in the District, including, for each trip, the point of origin and destination, the date and time of pick-up and drop-off, the stationary time at pick-up and drop-off, the fare paid, whether the trip was on a private or shared service, and the number of passengers in the vehicle.
To protect privacy and keep companies' confidential business information from being shared with a competitor, the legislation provides this data is not subject to FOIA and there has to be some kind of confidentiality agreement to share the data with other entities like WMATA. I worked with committee staffers to make recommendations for this data after they expressed interest in adding the requirement.
When DC legalized ride-hailing in 2014, I advocated for a data requirement, but at the time the council was unwilling to require it and in fact the legislation prohibited regulators from requiring information. This change repeals that ban.
I think this is a good move by Mendelson and support the council passing this provision. Cities should welcome ride-hailing but also need to understand the impact they are having on mobility, on traffic, on equity, and on transit ridership. There's plenty of precedent for transportation data being shared with the public sector which maintains the space through which transportation services operate. Since airline deregulation (and before), airlines share information with the FAA about how full, on-time, etc. their planes are. Ride-hailing data is analogous.
The council will pass the budget and take the first of two required votes on the Budget Support Act, a package of laws that accompany the budget including this one.
Mendelson backs off on encouraging carpooling
Unfortunately, another provision abandons the change I'd worked with ride-hailing companies to develop which would have set up a lower tax rate for “pooled” trips and a higher one for private rides. That would have steered the growth of this industry toward more efficient carpools which do less to add to traffic and greenhouse gas emissions.
Mendelson wanted to reduce proposed increases in the hotel and restaurant taxes, so instead he raised the tax on ride-hailing to 6% across the board. He also is raising the tax on large commercial buildings beyond what Mayor Muriel Bowser proposed.
I'd have preferred he leave the ride-hail tax as approved by the Finance and Revenue committee. Reacting to this news shared on Twitter, some residents pointed out that the change puts more of the burden on residents who choose to go car-free even if transit isn’t a good option for every trip at all times of the day and week:
Why am I penalized with an additional tax because I live car free and sometimes use a car!!
— DC (@20001dc) May 15, 2018
The perverse rideshare tax cooked up by @MayorBowser and embiggened in the proposed Council budget makes the tax alone on some rideshare trips higher than the marginal cost of taking your own car. This could be a contender for the 2018 AAA prize for subtle pro-car tax policy.
— Daniel Ridge (@DR_6B09) May 15, 2018
Increase the RPP! Increase the tax on parking garages.
— DC (@20001dc) May 15, 2018
It's disappointing to miss this opportunity to make good public policy for the roadway network at the same time the council raises money for Metro.
Another provision Mendelson added, which DC Sustainable Transportation (a business and advocacy coalition which I lead) asked for, was $80,000 to help enforce the Connecticut Avenue pick-up and drop-off zone. There, what was formerly nighttime parking is now a dedicated area for ride-hailing and other vehicles to pick up and drop off people going to nearby nightclubs. Some people are parking in the zone anyway and accepting the tickets; this funding will help provide tow trucks for it and possibly some future pick-up/drop-off zones elsewhere.
There is also funding for a study of the impact of autonomous vehicles on the District.
Other budget provisions I wasn't involved with include expanding the Kids Ride Free program to Metrobus and Circulator. The budget also removes a special fund for performance parking revenue; Donald Shoup's original performance parking concept was that a city would raise meter rates but devote the extra revenue to improving the streetscape or non-driving options for the immediately affected area. DC does make improvements in the areas but never followed through on doing that in an explicitly linked way, and previous budgets took the money away from this fund which has now been empty for some time.
The council passed the budget and Budget Support Act Tuesday. The second and final Budget Support Act vote will happen on May 29.
Update: This post has been updated with additional information about the performance parking fund and the fact that the budget and BSA first reading passed Tuesday.