Lyft drivers starting early. Photo by Casie McCarthy

Deal struck to drop proposed gross receipts tax on Uber, Lyft paves way for city to glean per-ride charges

Supervisor Aaron Peskin today confirmed that he’s dropped his plans to hit “Transportation Network Companies” — Uber, Lyft, etc. — with a gross receipts tax on their revenue. As such, the companies will acquiesce to a proposed per-ride surcharge, to be enabled by forthcoming state legislation from Assemblyman Phil Ting.

Peskin said the proposed 3.25-percent tax on every TNC ride in the city could result in users of Uber, Lyft,  et al. pumping $30 million a year into San Francisco’s municipal piggybank — and perhaps more in the future.

In a released statement, the supervisor indicated his hopes that “this concession” on the part of the TNCs “signals a shift in their corporate culture and a willingness to work with — not fight with — local governments.”

Informal tallies of Uber, Lyft, and other TNC vehicles in San Francisco are placed at some 47,000 or more rides per day — with perhaps nine of every 10 drivers commuting into the city. The Mission District, naturally, is among the most heavily trawled by ride-share vehicles — and, in case you were wondering, Zeitgeist and Tacolicious are purportedly the No. 1 most-visited bar and restaurant, respectively, by Lyft users. Valencia Street has become so overrun with TNCs that geofencing programs now divert pick-ups onto side streets.

The local tax on TNCs will require a vote of the people in 2019. In addition to a 3.25 percent surcharge on Uber, Lyft, and other TNC rides, the proposed legislation would also impose a 1.5 percent tax on so-called “carpool share” services — including future autonomous vehicles.

The estimated $30 million yearly would be directed toward the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, and begin chipping away at this city’s myriad transportation headaches.

“San Francisco streets are more congested and crowded than ever.  … We need the additional revenue to make these critical transportation investments and improvements,” Ting said in a statement. “I’m proud to work with my San Francisco colleagues, Senator Scott Wiener and Assemblymember David Chiu, to help improve San Francisco’s transportation systems.”

An earlier version of this story referenced to Chariot when it is not yet clear if or at what rate Chariot would be taxed under this proposition. 

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Managing Editor/Columnist. Joe was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left.

“Your humble narrator” was a writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015, and a senior editor at San Francisco Magazine from 2015 to 2017. You may also have read his work in the Guardian (U.S. and U.K.); San Francisco Public Press; San Francisco Chronicle; San Francisco Examiner; Dallas Morning News; and elsewhere.

He resides in the Excelsior with his wife and three (!) kids, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.

The Northern California branch of the Society of Professional Journalists named Eskenazi the 2019 Journalist of the Year.

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  1. Peskin is just not drunk on booze, he’s drunk on the money of others, to throw into the 11 billion dollar San Francisco bottomless pit.

  2. San Francisco doesn’t need more money. They need to get thespending under control. SF sends more money per resident than any major city in the US except Washington, DC. Philadelphia, also a combined city and a county with an airport and port has a population of over 1.5 million and a 2019 budget of $4.345 BILLION. San Francisco has a population of about 860,000 has a 2019 budget of 11 BILLION. SF’s budgeting resemembels Einesteins definition of insanity: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” When SF recognizes a problem their first instince is to throw money at it. If that doesn’t work they throw more money at it. If it doesn’t work the 2nd time, throw even more money at it. Etc, etc, etc. A prime example if that is the every expanding homeless problem.

    1. Rent control ruined SF. It created a large core of entitled children who will do any thing to keep their slacker life style. They love filth, vagrants, crime, used syringes and over taxing anyone who dares to make any money. Because it is the only way they can keep their rent control hovels.

  3. On the one hand, taxing Uber and Lyft seems fair — why not. On the other hand, just it’s another $30M for the city to piss away — the city budget is already >$9 BILLION so this is a rounding error of an increase of 0.3%.

  4. How much would have the gross receipts tax on TNC been, in dollar terms? Would it have been more or less than the 3.25% surcharge? I think that is a good journalistic question.

    1. You’re not wrong, but I can’t hold up the entire story over that.

      For what it’s worth, this will actually bring in less money initially, but is viewed as being more lucrative in the long-term. It’s also a dedicated revenue stream to transit issues and the gross receipts tax would not have been without further finagling.