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Deconstructing Uber's Vaporware Counterproposal to Lori's Fair Ride-Hail Tax

Streetsblog Chicago

Last spring when Uber was trying to block the city of Chicago from signing a deal with Lyft for citywide expansion of the Divvy bike-share system, they floated a bogus counterproposal. Now the company is using the same strategy to try and kill Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s plan for a new fair ride-hail tax structure, which would reduce congestion and help improve CTA service.

The counterproposal is outlined in a blog post by Josh Gold, one of Uber’s top New York City PR flacks who recently came to Chicago to fight the city proposal, which the company views as an existential threat to its business model. Let’s go ahead and deconstruct the some of the dubious aspects of Gold’s post and plan.

“The City’s proposal… will likely have very limited impact on congestion.”

Lightfoot’s plan will mostly jack up the price of traffic-clogging private downtown trips during peak hours, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., raising the tax from the current flat rate of $0.72 to $3.00. According to a new city of Chicago study, half of all Chicago ride-hail trips start or end downtown, and a third both start and end there, with 29.817 trips taken during a typical evening rush. That $2.28 price hike will be a major incentive to switch to more sustainable modes, including Uber Pool and and Lyft Line, CTA, walking, and Divvy bike-share. That will go a long way towards reducing traffic jams. Moreover, the $2 million annually that the new fees are expected to raise for projects to speed up bus service will help shift more trips from cars to transit.

“[Lightfoot’s] proposal will hurt Chicagoans [on the South and West sides] who take trips far from congested downtown.”

Nope, since most rides hailed from the South and West sides are currently shared trips in the neighborhoods, most South and West side ride-hail users would get a 10 percent discount from the current $0.72 tax, saving them a little money.

And a map below by Elizabeth Irvin of the Center for Neighborhood Technology illustrates, the vast majority of the new revenue would come the wealthier parts of Chicago, downtown and on the North Side. Yes, the average price of a ride on the South or West side is projected to go up by a modest 25 to 50 cents when you average in the minority of rides that are private or downtown trips. “[But] the actual increase in fees is likely to be even less than what is shown here, as reduced fees incentivize more people to switch to shared rides,” Irvin writes.

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