CLEVELAND – Rideshare services like Uber and Lyft are the transportation of choice for many. But public transit is still vitally important in metropolitan areas like Cleveland, where 150,000-200,000 people ride RTA on an average weekday.
But RTA is grappling with a loss of state funding and is planning a service cut in March and fare increases are expected in August.
To help RTA with funding, Clevelanders for Public Transit, the advocacy group for RTA riders, wants Cuyahoga County to charge people 27 cents each time they use Uber, Lyft or other similar company.
“In Cuyahoga County, really rough estimate that would raise about three million dollars a year so that’s not enough to plug any service gap meaningfully but what it is, is enough for providing fair relief for users of RTA,” says Akshai Singh, an organizer with Clevelanders for Public Transit.
Singh points to a similar program in Chicago as a reference for the greater Cleveland area.
“A pretty modest fee, and I use Uber and Lyft too. So paying an extra quarter there when doing that service is a lot more manageable than doing it on every single RTA trip which is what the fare increase would mean,” Singh said.
Singh brought the idea for the ride share tax to the county council at a recent meeting.
Cuyahoga County Councilman Dale Miller said he wants to wait to comment on the idea until there is a formal request from RTA. But Singh and other advocates face other road blocks. Even if the county gets on board with the idea, ride share companies are regulated on the state level, and current state law preempts any local ordinance from passing a tax on ride share users.
“The state government law is right now the biggest impediment to being able to push anything right now at the local level,” Singh said.
Uber and Lyft users in downtown Cleveland were open to the idea of a fee on their rides. Many pointed to the need for Cleveland to have a strong public transit system if it intends to compete with other cities.
“ Personally, I think it would be ok, especially if it went toward keeping the RTA up and running and if they need to make more money and such,” said Jeff Miller who works downtown.
“I think it’s, you know, important especially in big cities like this to you know have kind of a public transit that people don’t need a car to get around. I think that’s a big point that people move to big cities,” Miller continued.
Singh understands that he may get pushback from many on his idea, which is still just that: an idea brought forward to county council.
Uber did not send FOX8 a comment but pointed to current state law that would stop the county from implementing their own law. A Lyft representative did send FOX8 a statement. It says,
“This is the first we've heard of this proposal and it's not something we're supporting. It is important to note that such a fee would be paid for by passengers, thus increasing the cost of ridesharing services for those in the community.”
The RTA is scheduled to have their next board meeting on March 27 where they will finalize the budget for 2018.