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Taxing a Solution to Congestion?
It increasingly appears that Governor Cuomo and NY State Leaders may abandon plans for a much-needed comprehensive congestion plan for New York City. Instead, they propose to impose a significant new tax on ride-hailing services, including shared-ride services like Via, which already pay 8.9% in tax on every ride. That’s right – this new policy, ostensibly aimed at reducing congestion, will in fact drastically increase taxes on multi-passenger pooling options, which are part of the solution to congestion, not the problem. Some of the numbers being discussed in Albany would actually tax pooled rides at a higher percentage rate than single passenger trips!
Here at Via, we’ve spent the past six years and invested tens of millions of dollars developing technology that truly provides a solution to congestion. If you Via in NYC, you’ve experienced it first hand: our algorithm enables multiple passengers to seamlessly and efficiently share a single vehicle while rarely making any detours. More often than not, at rush hour you can spot a Via Mercedes van whisking six passengers to or from Midtown, eliminating the need for several additional vehicles on our heavily congested roads. Recent TLC data shows that Via provides more shared rides in Manhattan than all other companies combined.
Unlike autonomous driving – a technology that offers great promise, but still requires years of further development – our technology is ready now. That’s why cities of all sizes across the world, including Los Angeles, Berlin, Singapore, Austin, Arlington TX, Seattle, West Sacramento, Sydney, and even Queenstown in New Zealand, are actually paying for Via to launch and operate alongside their traditional public transit systems. These cities understand that Via is a complement to their existing buses and subways, and they are eager to leverage our technology to improve mobility for their residents. It would be incredibly disappointing if New York, the state in which we were founded and is our home base, takes the opposite approach.
It’s not just Via who thinks there should be no increase in the tax on pooled rides above the existing 8.9% sales tax. Uber and Lyft, environmental and transportation NGOs, and leading academic experts sent a letter this week urging State leaders to “apply any surcharge over the existing tax only to single passenger options.”
If our elected leaders in New York actually care about congestion, why would they penalize people who share vehicles and incentivize people to drive alone for free? To make matters worse, a fee on pooled rides would hurt low- and middle-income riders who rely on these more affordable options.
Yesterday, over the course of just a few hours, more than 10,000 Via riders sent emails urging leaders not to increase the tax on pooled rides. It would be a shame if their voices were not heard.
Co-founder and CEO