Upstate ridesharing fees to benefit local transit

By Jimmy Vielkind

12/20/2016 01:57 PM EDT

ALBANY — The 50-cent fee that officials are preparing to levy on ride-hailing trips outside of New York City will fund both the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and other public transit systems, officials said Tuesday.

POLITICO reported Tuesday that draft legislation will levy the fee on all ride-hailing trips — in cars run by companies like Uber and Lyft — that start outside of New York City. In counties serviced by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority — Long Island’s Nassau and Suffolk counties as well as Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Orange and Dutchess counties in the Hudson Valley — those fees will be remitted to the MTA.

In other upstate counties, the fees will be directed to a dedicated fund that supports other public transportation systems. Elected officials from upstate areas immediately pounced on the idea of using upstate fees to support trains and buses in New York City and its suburbs, something that a spokesman for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie assured is not being contemplated as the bill continued to be negotiated.

“There is no final agreement, but it should be noted that in the draft, and what has always been the case, is that the charge for rides originating outside the MTA region would go toward upstate transit needs,” said Heastie spokesman Mike Whyland.

The Citizens Budget Commission has warned that Uber’s growing popularity in New York City — where it operates as a for-hire service, and is not subject to the same MTA-supporting 50-cent fee as traditional taxis — could hurt the transportation authority’s coffers.

On Twitter, the CBC called the proposed fees a “modest step” in the “right direction.”

Mike Elmendorf, state director for the Associated General Contractors, said any public money generated by ride-sharing trips should also benefit roads.

“If there’s a new revenue stream, this doesn’t make a lot of sense,” he said. “These ride-sharing cars are using roads and bridges to transport people. So at a minimum, it ought to be evenly split between supporting transit and supporting the systems these vehicles are using.”