Rideshare workers say don’t tax us twice

02 Jun 2023

by Karen Juanita Carrillo

June 1, 2023

Rideshare workers are urging Gov. Kathy Hochul and the MTA to refrain from imposing what they deem as a double tax on them and their jobs.

The Independent Drivers Guild (IDG), which says it represents many of the city’s rideshare drivers (as well as drivers in New Jersey, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Florida), plans to rally in front of the governor’s offices in Manhattan on Friday, June 2. They plan to deliver a petition that calls on Hochul to recognize that the proposed Central Business District (CBD) Tolling Program would amount to a second tax on for-hire vehicle (FHV) drivers.

“Please exempt rideshare drivers from the new congestion pricing toll,” the IDG petition said. “For-hire vehicle trips were already assigned a congestion tax of $2.75 per trip by the state legislature in the first phase of congestion pricing. Adding an additional congestion tax or toll as high as $23 per trip will cost thousands of low-income, immigrant rideshare drivers their jobs and it will put rideshare costs out of reach for hardworking New Yorkers who depend on Uber, Lyft, and for-hire vehicles to get around.”

The CBD Tolling Program is New York’s attempt to institute an urban congestion pricing plan that would lower traffic congestion and improve air quality in Midtown Manhattan while increasing revenue for the MTA.

Cars that enter or remain in the CBD during peak hours would be electronically tolled—charged via E-ZPass or have toll bills mailed directly to the home address of the car’s registered owner.

The IDG says this new tax would lead to a decrease of nearly 15,000 FHV driver jobs.

“It’s outrageous and illegal to single out Uber, Lyft, and for-hire vehicle drivers with a second congestion tax. For a for-hire vehicle driver with a typical six days per week schedule, adding this second congestion tax would cost as much as $7,000 per year,” said IDG President Brendan Sexton. “That means the MTA proposes to tax FHV drivers, over 90% of whom are immigrants and people of color, over 15% of their annual take-home pay.

“Why would you double-tax the only group that has already been paying congestion tax for years, a group that is also protected under federal law as an economic justice population? If they move forward with this double tax, they could end up with years of delays in court.” 

The language of the IDG’s letter to Hochul points out that:

“1) The proposed double taxation of FHV rides is unfair.

“2) Singling out this economic justice community for double taxation is illegal and may lead to years of delays in court.

“3) By targeting rideshare drivers, rather than their passengers, the proposals will fail to reduce congestion in the Central Business District, one of the central goals of the policy.”

An analysis of the CBD Tolling Program by the progressive policy advocacy group the Black Institute (TBI) also determined that the plan would “economically demolish an industry that feeds tens of thousands of New Yorkers who are already struggling.” 

“The Black Institute (TBI) felt compelled to assess this issue from the lens of people of color,” TBI said in a report published this past January 2023, entitled “Just Call It a Black and Brown Toll: An analysis of the MTA’s proposed congestion pricing plan.” “While our analysis of the issue pales in length compared to the MTA’s, we have just as much to say about the issue, the EA [environmental assessment], and the MTA as any other.”

The TBI report said the higher costs of driving into Midtown Manhattan will inevitably lead to greater air pollution in parts of Black- and brown-dominated neighborhoods in the Bronx and Harlem, where commuters will begin driving so they can park their cars before hopping onto public transportation and going into the CBD. TBI found that the CBD Tolling Program “in its current form is undoubtedly a regressive tax not because of its uniformity, but by the fact that there is practically no easement whatsoever for lower-income people. Unfortunately, in our city, low income and race happen to go hand in hand…New York is one of the most unequal cities on Earth––despite now only making up around 40% of the city’s population across the five boroughs, white residents disproportionately occupy the city’s highest-paying jobs. They also have a median wage that is over 50% greater than the median wage for Black people, and over 60% greater than the median wage for Hispanic people.”
“FHV drivers are upset. How could the MTA and the governor do something so unfair?” said longtime Uber driver and IDG Organizing Director Aziz Bah. “We’re taking to the streets to fight this unfair and illegal double tax!”