Major Tax on Lyft, Uber Heads to S.F. Voters in 2019

The bill squeaked past the California Assembly by one vote, and Governor Brown signed it into law on Friday.

On Friday afternoon, Governor Jerry Brown signed in a law that gives San Francisco the right to tax two of our wealthiest corporations. Marking a major step forward in holding companies entitled to their surrounding communities, Assembly Bill 1184 — which allows cities and counties to impose a tax on Uber and Lyft to fund public transportation efforts — has successfully wended its way through the Assembly, Senate, and Brown’s desk, and heads to city voters next.

The tax would provide an estimated $30 million annually by taxing Lyft and Uber 3.25 percent of net rider fares on any rides that begin in San Francisco, with the exception of Lyft Line and Uber Pool. A lower tax rate could be considered for zero emission vehicles. The two TNCs agreed to the tax earlier this summer, but it still had to receive legislative approval from the state. 

Supervisor Aaron Peskin played a large role in reaching a consensus between politicians and the two major TNCs. 

“It is no secret that TNCs at peak in the downtown area added some 26 percent to the congestion,” Peskin said. “This did not start out all happy and consensual, it started out as a fight.”

And even when Uber and Lyft caved and agreed to the tax, it still had to get the state’s approval. Assemblymember Phil Ting introduced the bill to the Assembly, where it passed by a single vote. State-Senator Scott Wiener guided it through the Senate. Despite strong opposition from General Motors, Brown signed it into law.

“I thought it was impossible and would never happen, particularly given the extremely compress time frames,” Peskin said at a press conference Monday. “I was a little pessimistic that [Brown] was going to sign it, but he did. We have opened a new chapter in our relationship with Uber and Lyft. I’m glad that they’re putting their money where their mouth is to ameliorate their impact on San Francisco.” 

It now heads San Francisco voters’ hands for a vote Nov. 2019. Los Angeles and Oakland have also shown interest in instituting the tax.

“We’ll be spending the next year urging the voters to pass this fee that we have agreed on,” said Assemblymember Phil Ting. 

And the tax already has some valuable supporters; transportation advocates in San Francisco are already hopping aboard. 

“We’re thrilled that Governor Brown has signed AB1184 into law,” said San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Brian Wiedenmeier. “Transportation network companies like Lyft and Uber have a disproportionate impact on San Francisco’s streets, especially when it comes to the safety of people biking. We hope to work with both companies as well as elected officials and our over 10,000 members to get an initiative on the ballot that will provide funds for badly-needed transportation projects like more protected bike lanes.” 

Nevertheless, it’s going to be a long, undoubtedly expensive battle to not only get it on the local ballot but pass it. 

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” Peskin said. 

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