O’Donnell: Help public transportation with fee on ride-hailing companies

  • Ryan O'Donnell, running for Hampshire, Franklin, Worcester District Senate Seat.

For the Gazette
Published: 7/30/2018 9:39:20 PM

NORTHAMPTON — State Senate candidate Ryan O’Donnell has outlined a proposal to increase state funding for regional transit authorities by placing a 30-to-50-cent fee on all rides completed by transportation network companies (TNCs) such as Uber and Lyft.

According to O’Donnell, this fee could raise $20 million to $30 million a year, based on the fact that there were 64.8 million TNC rides in Massachusetts. He said that most of these rides are in the Boston area, but cities like Northampton and Amherst also see a fair number of Uber and Lyft drivers and customers.

“This is an important issue to the people I want to represent,” said O’Donnell, who explained that regional transit authorities like the Pioneer Valley and the Franklin Regional transit authorities have had to increase their fares and cut their routes due to a lack of public transportation funding from the state.

“I would like to see these agencies be able to deliver what their communities need,” said O’Donnell.

Currently, the state receives 20 cents from every Uber and Lyft ride taken to help fund transportation projects unrelated to public transportation. However, his proposition of adding another fee of 30 to 50 cents per ride would go straight toward the improvement of public transportation.

Others have levied similar fees on ride-hailing companies. Chicago earlier this year raised its fee to 67 cents per ride.

O’Donnell said that in this race, he has struggled with the lack of substantive debates on clear alternatives to issues such as public transportation.

“Voters want a discussion about solutions,” he said.

O’Donnell, the Northampton City Council president, is one of four write-in candidates, running against candidate Chelsea Kline, whose name will be on the ballot, for the state Senate seat vacated earlier this year by Stan Rosenberg. The others are Jo Comerford, Steve Connor and David Murphy.

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