The District would raise taxes on sales, commercial property and ride-hailing services such as Lyft and Uber to increase funding for Metro under the 2019 budget Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) proposed Wednesday.
Bowser’s plan, which must be approved by the D.C. Council, spells out for the first time how the city would pay for the District’s $178.5 million share of a regional strategy to improve the transit system.
Her proposed $14.5 billion budget for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1 increases per-pupil funding by 3.91 percent, a source of contention last year and higher than what some education advocates expected.
Bower’s spending plan also includes $100 million for a trust fund for affordable housing — as she has proposed annually since taking office — as well as $300 million in starting costs for a new hospital east of the Anacostia River and $860,000 for publicly financed campaigns approved by the council but initially opposed by Bowser.
The mayor presented the budget in a briefing with the D.C. Council, which will hold public hearings and vote on the spending plan before June. The first formal hearing is scheduled for Friday.
Last week, a public relations skirmish broke out between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Uber, after researchers at the school’s Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research (CEEPR) released a dismaying study on the subject of ride-sharing drivers’ profits. Across the board, they estimated, after accounting for such business costs as fuel, depreciation, and insurance, Uber and Lyft drivers — independent contractors by definition, and thus granted few of the protections that even the most rudimentary part-time jobs boast — often saw their take-home pay dip well below $4 an hour.
The electric scooter is the latest entrant into the app-based mobility market.
Residents and visitors in the nation’s capital, and in many other U.S. cities, now have access to motorized scooters that rent for as little as $1 plus 15 cents per minute. The services work similarly to the dockless bike systems, allowing users to track down a scooter via an app and to drop it off just about anywhere after a trip is completed. No docking is required.
The new transportation product is touted as another option for commuters to make first- and last-mile trips in complement to traditional transit.
“Today, 40 percent of car trips are less than two miles long. Our goal is to replace as many of those trips as possible so we can get cars off the road and curb traffic and greenhouse gas emissions,” said Travis VanderZanden, founder and chief executive of Bird, which recently announced plans to bring scooters to 50 U.S. markets by the end of the year. The company is in several California markets and has raised $100 million to expand to cities outside the state, including the District.
The median profit before taxes earned by ride-hailing drivers at either service is about $3.37, or less than half of the minimum wage in most states, researchers at MIT’s Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research wrote in their newly published working paper, “Economics of Ride-Hailing: Driver Revenue, Expenses and Taxes.”
Culled from interviews conducted with over 1,100 Uber and Lyft drivers, the analysis “provides one of the first detailed estimates of ride-hailing profit,” its authors wrote.