“Cities are becoming the safety net for America.”
Durkan and Deputy Mayor Shefali Ranganathan discussed it with reporters in a briefing at midday today, embargoed until tonight, to be further discussed at an event tomorrow. We were among the roomful of journalists invited to City Hall for today’s briefing, told in advance only that it would be about a proposal involving “a new proposal for workers, housing, and transit,” so we went downtown to find out more.
One big component: The city currently taxes the companies 24 cents a ride. That would be tripled to 75 cents, with the revenues mostly going to three things:
-Cover the $56 million funding gap for the Center City Connector streetcar (which District 1 Councilmember Lisa Herbold refers to as the “shopping shuttle”)
-Raise $52 million to help build 500 units of affordable-to-workers (defined as people making $15-$25/hour) housing “near transit” (within a 10-minute walk of what the city defines as “frequent”) in the next five years
-Raise $17 million to open and run a “resolution center” for Uber/Lyft drivers, who the city says are often “deactivated” without explanation
The mayor also contended it’s fair to get more out of ride-share companies because they’re using the city’s public right-of-way and curbspace to run their businesses.
It should be noted, while Uber and Lyft are the only ride-share companies affected by the proposal, others could be affected too if they crossed the baseline of one million rides per quarter that start and/or end in Seattle.
Might the increased tax be passed on to ride-share users? Maybe, allowed the mayor, but in other places (such as New York) where costs went up, ridership didn’t go down, she said.
What will be the minimum wage for drivers, who are currently treated as independent contractors? A study, to launch shortly, will sort that out, in time to launch it in July 2020. Currently, Ranganathan said, drivers’ pay averages out to less than $11/hour, while the city’s current minimum wage is $16/hour. Drivers are only compensated for the time passengers are in their vehicles, but studies show, she said, that they spend more than a third of each hour waiting for their next assignment. The mayor declared, “No business should benefit by not treating its workers fairly.”
This will all be part of the mayor’s budget proposal, which goes public in its entirety next Monday. That means it’ll have to go through council hearings and votes before becoming official. First public hearing on the budget is set for 5:30 pm October 3 at City Hall.
–Tracy Record, WSB editor