In 2009, state politicians tacked a 50-cent surcharge onto all yellow-cab rides as part of an MTA bailout, figuring it'd be an easier sell than something that could more dramatically shore up the agency's perennially shaky finances like, say, raising taxes, metering all parking, or congestion pricing. What they didn't see coming was ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft, which MTA finance head Bob Foran said on Wednesday will cost $10 million a year in taxi trips not taken.
The MTA rolled out its 2016-2019 financial plan at a board meeting, and in it they predict $68 million in lost aid, much of it from the rapid growth in use of the on-demand livery cab apps.
"It seems that market share is coming away from the medallion cabs, going to the app-based services," Foran said. "We were hoping that the whole pie would grow."
Uber charges sales tax on each ride, but only a small fraction of that goes towards the MTA, meaning a fare would have to top $133 to reach the 50-cent contribution mark. Uber spokesman Matt Wing argued to the Daily News that the company is contributing more to state coffers than taxis, and it's not Uber's problem where the money ends up.
"This imbalance has generated a total of $40 million in revenue to the city and state in the first half of this year alone to spend as they please," Wing said. "If the MTA wants to claim that revenue, they should take that up with the city and state."
Wing is former press secretary to Gov. Cuomo and was recently appointed by Cuomo to be a director of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation. Wing also spent time as a press aide to Bill de Blasio when he was public advocate. De Blasio's mayoral campaign was heavily funded by taxi-medallion tycoons and he has threatened to cap Uber's growth in the city. In October, Cuomo signaled he wants to pull rank on the mayor, with whom he has been bickering for the last year, and regulate ride-sharing apps at the state level.
As WNYC points out, $10 million a year is a lot, but in the scheme of the MTA's $15 billion annual budget, it's a wee little tidbit. For example, the introduction of a $1 purchase fee for MetroCards in 2013 made the MTA $10 million in its first five months.