Colorado Moving Forward With Fees For Uber And Lyft Riders To Combat Climate Change

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Uber And Lyft Riders
Uber and Lyft drivers hold protest, call for change working conditions.

In the wave of energy and environment legislation that passed through the Colorado General Assembly this year, one bill slipped through that received very little public spotlight – a proposal to charge a fee to customers of ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft to help combat climate change.

That bill, SB 239, directs the Colorado Department of Transportation to study the technological impacts and changing business models within the transportation industry, specifically transportation network and peer-to-peer car sharing companies.

By the end of the year, the general assembly is asking for recommendations on a series of fees that would be charged to passengers who use these companies.

These fees will aim to incentive the use of zero-emissions vehicles and multiple-passenger ridesharing.

Will Toor, the director of the Colorado Energy Department spoke about the law in a forum hosted by the Society of Environmental Journalists in May.

In a discussion with Mike Nelson, the chief meteorologist at ABC 7 Denver, Toor talked about how SB 239 would target certain companies.

“Yeah, this is a really interesting one that has kind of gone under the radar screen. It passed this morning,” Toor said. “And this is a bill that is really looking at transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft. As with many urban areas, we’re seeing more and more of the TNC [Transportation Network Company] vehicles on the streets.”

Toor acknowledged the specifics have yet to be decided, but he described the basic fee structure.

“But the fees will be designed to incentivize electrification in multi-passenger trips,” Toor said. “So, the details remain to be worked out. But the basic concept is that there will be one fee if it’s an internal combustion engine vehicle and there is only one passenger. A lower fee if it’s multiple passenger or electric, and still a lower fee or maybe free if it’s electric and multi-passenger.”

Toor then said the revenue would support public transit and electric vehicle infrastructure.

The proposal did not come up during Thursday’s House Select Committee Hearing on the Climate Crisis hosted by Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) in Boulder, Colo. Gov. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), who appointed Toor to his position, testified before the committee, but focused his comments more generally on Colorado’s goal to achieve 100 percent renewable energy capacity. Boulder Mayor Suzanne Jones and Fort Collins Mayor Wade Troxell also testified.

This will be more regulatory action on SB 239 next week. On Thursday, August 7, the Colorado Department of Transportation will hold a subcommittee meeting to discuss the fee structure for transportation network companies.

A spokesman for the Colorado Department of Transportation declined to elaborate on Toor’s comments.

A key question in the rulemaking process will be how much the fee will be and if there is a special designation in a rider’s receipt showing the fee is a result of the bill.

An examination of Uber receipts shows all “tolls, subcharges, and fees” are listed under a single line item. For Lyft, only the total cost is given.

Several other cities also employ fees including Chicago which is only 72 cents per trip and New Orleans and Portland which both are 50 cents per trip.

The state of Massachusetts’ fee is 20 cents per trip and Nevada’s is 3 percent of the total fare.

New York City stands out by charging $2.75 per trip, but only 75 cents for shared rides.

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