If you’re like most of us, you probably use a ride hailing app such as Uber or Lyft. Ride hailing apps have become such a staple of everyday life for USF students, it’s hard to imagine what our college experience would look like without them (undoubtedly, there would be more Public Safety van calls). However, if Supervisor Aaron Peskin gets his way on a November 2018 ballot proposition he’s proposed, San Francisco will have a chance to implement a tax on all ride hailing apps. It’s fair to predict that the tax will be passed on to the users of these apps.
The Foghorn is divided on the potential benefits and costs of this tax.
First, it is a fact that apps like Uber make streets more congested. From Boston to New York City to San Francisco, separate studies all found the same thing: ride hailing apps are adding to traffic, not taking away from it, as Uber and Lyft have suggested their services would. This congestion doesn’t just lead to longer commutes or higher incidents of road-rage – it also has a negative impact on the environment and wears down on city roads at an expedited rate.
So what should San Francisco do about this fact? Some of us think that taxing ride hailing services is not only a perfectly reasonable solution, but also something that should be done. If ride hailing services are adding to the breakdown of city roads, they should share the maintenance costs. In other words, San Francisco has to spend more money on repairing roads than it would if Uber or Lyft didn’t exist to begin with. Just as cigarette companies are highly taxed due to their contribution to lung cancer, these companies must be taxed. And if the price is pushed down to consumers? Good. That will make more people take public transportation, meaning less breakdown on the already incredibly congested SF roads.
Many of us take Uber or Lyft everywhere. Moreover, a lot of people in the city don’t have cars and don’t have the extra money that calling a cab would require. Without Uber and Lyft, more people would turn to public transportation, which is cheaper and more eco-friendly. However, others on the Foghorn staff disagree with the idea of a tax on ride hailing apps. No matter what any supervisor or company representative says, if San Francisco does tax Uber and Lyft, it is almost certain that that cost will pass onto customers. Some Foghorn staff members say they’ll keep using Uber and Lyft, but will be disappointed in having to pay more for it. If San Francisco really wants to decrease Uber and Lyft’s influence on the market, they should adopt New York City’s policy: one can only drive for Uber or Lyft in the city if they have a taxi license or “bus driver license.” In other words, only taxi drivers who already have their share of the market will be able to drive Uber or Lyft. This is to stop non-taxi drivers from acting as competitors and would give the leverage back to public transportation workers.
In conclusion, the Foghorn staff is divided on whether or not the city should tax an app that many of us use regularly. It is undeniable that Uber and Lyft have increased congestion in the city, but is taxing it the right answer, or just another way to hurt the people who use the service?
Featured Photo: Nobody can deny how useful Uber is, but do the costs outweigh the benefits? ELLIOT BROWN / FLICKR