DC may require ride-hailing companies to share data, but won’t encourage pooling

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Cities have required taxis to give logs of their rides to regulators for a long time. New York, Toronto, Chicago, Seattle, and others ask for taxi-like data from ride-hailing companies such as Uber, Lyft, and Via; now, DC might join them. However, it won't follow through on an earlier proposal to encourage carpooling on these ride-hailing services.

The draft DC budget, released around 9 pm Monday night by Chairman Phil Mendelson, includes legislative language requiring these companies to provide:

A log of trips performed by private vehicle-for-hire operators utilizing the digital dispatch services of the private vehicle-for-hire company in the District, including, for each trip, the point of origin and destination, the date and time of pick-up and drop-off, the stationary time at pick-up and drop-off, the fare paid, whether the trip was on a private or shared service, and the number of passengers in the vehicle.

To protect privacy and keep companies' confidential business information from being shared with a competitor, the legislation provides this data is not subject to FOIA and there has to be some kind of confidentiality agreement to share the data with other entities like WMATA. We worked with committee staffers to make recommendations for this data after they expressed interest in adding the requirement.

When DC legalized ride-hailing in 2014, I advocated for a data requirement, but at the time the council was unwilling to require it and in fact the legislation prohibited regulators from requiring information. This change repeals that ban.

We support the council passing this provision. Cities should welcome ride-hailing but also need to understand the impact they are having on mobility, on traffic, on equity, and on transit ridership. There's plenty of precedent for transportation data being shared with the public sector which maintains the space through which transportation services operate. Since airline deregulation (and before), airlines share information with the FAA about how full, on-time, etc. their planes are. Ride-hailing data is analogous.

The council will pass the budget and take the first of two required votes on the Budget Support Act, a package of laws that accompany the budget including this one.

Mendelson backs off on encouraging carpooling

Unfortunately, another provision abandons the change we'd worked with ride-hailing companies to develop which would have set up a lower tax rate for "pooled" trips and a higher one for private rides. That would have steered the growth of this industry toward more efficient carpools which do less to add to traffic and greenhouse gas emissions.

Mendelson wanted to reduce proposed increases in the hotel and restaurant taxes, so instead he raised the tax on ride-hailing to 6% across the board. He also is raising the tax on large commercial buildings beyond what Mayor Muriel Bowser proposed.

DCST supported keeping a split rate between pooling and private rides. It's disappointing to miss this opportunity to make good public policy for the roadway network at the same time the council raises money for Metro.

And more

Another provision Mendelson added, which DCST asked for, was $80,000 to help enforce the Connecticut Avenue pick-up and drop-off zone where what was formerly nighttime parking is now a dedicated area for ride-hailing and other vehicles to pick up and drop off people going to nearby nightclubs. Some people are parking in the zone anyway and accepting the tickets; this funding will help provide tow trucks for it and possibly some future pick-up/drop-off zones elsewhere.

There is also funding for a study of the impact of autonomous vehicles on the District. Other budget provisions include expanding the Kids Ride Free program to Metrobus and Circulator. 

The council will vote on the budget and Budget Support Act Tuesday. The second and final Budget Support Act vote will happen on May 29.