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Seattle moving forward with plan to add 51 cent Uber/Lyft fee and minimum wage for drivers

Vintage Lyft, circa 2015

Mayor Jenny Durkan also has something to celebrate in the City Council’s vote Monday to approve a 2020 Seattle budget with only a few progressive tweaks to her base $6.5 billion plan.

The process also produced legislative approval of the mayor’s “Fare Share” plan that will add a 51 cent fee to every Uber and Lyft ride in Seattle to pay for the Center City Connector streetcar, new housing, and ride-hail industry regulation.

“Our Fare Share plan invests in first-in-the-nation protections for drivers, more housing near transit, and transit projects that will help keep Seattle moving,” Durkan said in a statement. “It is the right thing to do, and I applaud the City Council for moving quickly to ensure that more drivers can afford to live near where they work, and everyone, regardless of income or ability level, has access to high-quality transit.”

The fee approved Monday actually amounts to 57 cents. An existing 24 cent fee currently funds wheelchair accessible taxis and “regulation of the industry.” That fee is being reduced six cents as part of the plan.

Funds from the additional 51 cents per ride charge are expected to generate more than $50 million to help fund new housing, around $56 million to fund the Center City Connector streetcar, and $18 million to create an independent Driver Resolution Center for Uber and Lyft drivers. After 2025, new revenue will fund transit, bicycle, pedestrian, and safety projects.

As part of the plan, Seattle will also study implementation of a minimum wage for Uber and Lyft drivers in addition to compensation for benefits and expenses. Research from MIT showed many drivers if not the majority face an uphill climb earning an adequate living driving for the largest services. A driver’s median profit was $3.37 an hour after expenses, MIT’s Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research said. The nation’s largest cities have also targeted the industry. In New York, reports show demand has dropped as fares have risen following the city’s passage of minimum wage rules for drivers. And in San Francisco, voters barely approved a new tax on the services to help fund public transit.

Seattle’s minimum wage is planned to take effect next July.

Durkan said she will sign the legislation into law this week.

In Pike/Pine meanwhile, Uber and Lyft traffic around peak weekend nightlife hours has grown to the point that the city is experimenting with “geo-fencing” restrictions on the services that push riders and drivers to designated pick-up spots.


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2 thoughts on “Seattle moving forward with plan to add 51 cent Uber/Lyft fee and minimum wage for drivers

  1. Okay- that’s a new source of revenue.

    Why are we planning to use it to fund the downtown trolly car? If downtown property owners need a trolly car that’s gonna cost millions to operate every year and that Seattleites aren’t going to ride, then let’s make downtown property owners pay for it.

    Here’s hoping the council can get those trolly funds reallocated to transit that works.

  2. Ryan A, I agree. Streetcars (different from trolley buses) have proven to be more an economic development tool than an efficient addition to transit systems. With the passage of I-976, putting some funds into an account to be used as a safety net for any threatened transit reductions or reductions to the subsidized programs would be much more advisable. Also if the streetcar did not materialize, First Avenue would be free for the much need additional bus route usage.

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