New Uber and Lyft Fees to Bail out MBTA [OPINION]
Governor Charlie Baker, who got elected on a pledge not to raise taxes, is proposing new taxes and fees and has given the Democrat leadership a wink and a nod to consider even more.
Baker has been aggressively pushing for the formation of the proposed Transportation Carbon Initiative, or TCI, that would allow him to raise the gas tax by up to 17 cents per gallon to help bail out the MBTA. Now Baker has targeted ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft with a proposed per-ride fee increase of 80 cents on top of the current 20 cents per ride already charged, and to use much of the new revenue to also help the badly managed and debt-ridden MBTA.
The Baker proposal would generate an estimated $120 million in ride fees. The fee hike would help fund the $135 million increase in spending on the MBTA that Baker promised in his State of the Commonwealth Address on Tuesday. The governor says the MBTA would get 70 percent of all revenue raised by the fee hike while the other 30 percent would be distributed to local communities.
Baker is also looking for greater state regulation of the ride-hailing industry.
"Transportation network companies provide a valuable service, but they clog our roads and operate with very little oversight," he said. The governor is asking lawmakers to back his legislation to better manage where and when those services operate.
Baker is using his newfound concerns as a climate alarmist to reduce the Commonwealth's carbon footprint and addressing Boston's transportation needs, while largely ignoring the needs of the communities outside the 128 and 495 belts. But Baker's concerns about transportation may have more to do with his desire to seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2024 than saving the planet.
The good governor knows that a crumbling transit system and clogged highway arteries would be used by his political opponents to beat him over the head. Good for Boston and good for the MBTA – but not so good for communities like New Bedford, still struggling for state funding for a bridge replacement and harbor dredging.
Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.