Lightfoot should compromise on ride-hailing tax

How many Uber critics actually use the service?

SHARE Lightfoot should compromise on ride-hailing tax
Uber and Lyft are two ride-hailing companies that operate in Chicago.

Associated Press

The ride-hailing wars at City Hall kicked into high gear Wednesday, as Mayor Lori Lightfoot accused Uber of promising a $54 million “payoff” to a group of African American ministers in exchange for their opposition to her ride-hailing congestion tax.

On Thursday, following blowback, Lightfoot amended that charge.“My understanding, as I said yesterday, was that they offered up $54 million in — I’ll put in air quotes — ‘investments,’”she said.

Lightfoot’s 2020 budget proposal includes a tax on ride-hailing companies, aimed at easing downtown congestion and raising $40 million in new revenues.

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Ride-hailing firms such as Uber and Lyft argue the tax will hurt low-income riders and people of color “who take trips far from congested downtown.”

Lightfoot’s plan would triple the tax for solo pickups and drop-offs in the central part of the city.

Fees for shared rides outside the central city would drop slightly, from 72 cents to 65 cents, but increase to $1.25 for single riders.

The city argues that would encourage people picking up rides downtown to opt for shared rides.

The black ministers and others are pushing Lightfoot to compromise, arguing her tax would burden South and West side residents, long bereft of affordable transportation options.

Since September, Uber has offered the city three proposals.The latest, Uber says, would help the Lightfoot administration “raise $21 million more than the City’s current plan.”And it would be “more equitable to Chicago residents who rely on ride-hailing because they don’t have access to public transit or taxis.”

Politics is the art of compromise.Lightfoot isn’t budging.

She and other critics scoff that Uber and its ilk are engaged in a racially divisive, “misinformation campaign” to avoid new regulation.

Yes, ride-hailing companies such as Uber are irresistibly juicy targets.They have not always been model corporate citizens and are headed by “multi-millionaire owners,” as Lightfoot noted in her budget address.

I also know many neighborhood folks are not jumping into Ubers and Lyfts to go partying downtown at glittery clubs.They are ride-hailing to get to the job on time and run crucial errands.Mom is hailing the cars to get a child safely to the doctor, to school, to grandma.

I use Uber to get my elderly mother to doctor’s appointments and family gatherings.Shared rides on such trips are impractical and intrusive.

I wonder why our equity-first mayor is embracing the archaic taxi industry.“Our reforms will improve the playing field for our taxi drivers. That is a worthy cause and a fight worth having,” Lightfoot has declared.

Really?For decades, taxi companies held a virtual monopoly on their sub-standard service.Too many drivers disrespect their passengers.Too many routinely refuse to drive to the South and West sides.

Why not look at additional taxes on taxis, trucks, and the other delivery vehicles that contribute to downtown congestion?

And, I wonder, how many Uber critics actually use the service?How often do the mayor and her supposedly supportive aldermen ditch their city-funded cars and call up a ride-hailing app?

How many regularly stand on freezing street corners, navigating dark, sometimes violent streets, waiting for slow-mo buses and taxis that never come?

Uber wants to negotiate.Compromise, mayor, for the sake of equity.

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