NYC Taxi Riders Should Pay More to Aid Mass Transit, Group Says

Photographer: Scott Eells/Bloomberg

New York City passengers who use taxis and ride-hailing services like Uber should pay higher fares to support mass transit, the Citizens Budget Commission said.

Increased fees dedicated to subways, buses and commuter rail lines would help the Metropolitan Transportation Authority fill a $2.6 billion deficit in its proposed $30 billion capital plan through 2019, the business-backed research group said in a report Wednesday. The state-run MTA operates the city’s subways, buses and suburban commuter trains.

Riders now pay a 50-cent-per-ride surcharge on cab rides and an 8.875 sales tax on black cars, limousines and electronic-hail vehicles. Those fees generate about $250 million for the state, city and the MTA.

As the growth in Uber and similar companies reduces the amount of taxi business, the potential for mass-transit revenue from the surcharge may decline to $70 million in 2019 from $81 million now, the CBC said.

“Even the smallest amount raised -- $35 million with the expansion of the 50-cent taxicab tax to black cars -- could service $573 million in debt, or 22 percent of the remaining gap,” the commission said in the study.

As taxi fares have increased, the 50-cent fee has amounted to a smaller percentage of fares, leading the CBC to suggest a possible increase. In 2011 the surcharge represented 4.73 percent of an average fare; in 2015, it’s about 3.95 percent.

The CBC study supports Mayor Bill de Blasio’s expressed concern that the industry, which includes reservation-based vehicles for hire such as Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc., needed a review to determine its impact on mass-transit revenue and reduce traffic congestion.

The mayor proposed a moratorium on growth of rapidly increasing fleets of such cars to study their impact on the environment and economy. He later retreated after Uber rolled out a $5 million advertising campaign depicting the mayor as hostile to job opportunities such companies provide. The companies agreed to halt increasing their fleets to allow the administration to conduct a one-month study due Oct. 1.

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