Mayor Lori Lightfoot rejected Uber’s alternative to her ride share fee hike proposal on Tuesday, saying it’s not a proper plan and shouldn’t be considered a realistic budget idea.
The company floated a promise to generate at least $50 million in 2020 through its own three-tier fee increase, compared to the $40 million Lightfoot is counting on next year via her plan to hike the cost of single-passenger ride share trips in Chicago.
Lightfoot dismissed Uber’s latest plan at an unrelated press conference, saying it’s “not much of a proposal.”
“Based on our analysis this is another hail Mary pass on the part of Uber. It doesn’t involve either of the other two ride share companies and it’s telling that it comes after months of engagement with them, it comes a day before the vote that was going to happen today,” Lightfoot said.
“I view this as a distraction and an attempt to divert attention from the focus I think we need to have on fixing and addressing really a significant congestion in the downtown area that’s driven in large part by the enormous increase in ride share rides that are happening every single day downtown.”
Uber spokeswoman Kelly Quinn said the company has been trying to work with the Lightfoot administration.
“We have had months of conversations with the Mayor’s office and have tried to adapt our proposal to meet their goals, and also raise more money for the city," Quinn said in a statement. "Unfortunately, the city has refused to make any changes to its proposal, despite concerns from tens of thousands of riders and drivers, editorial boards, community leaders and aldermen about how the fees will impact Chicagoans who don’t have other options and don’t take a trip near downtown.”
At a City Council hearing on Lightfoot’s budget package, mayoral critic Ald. Raymond Lopez, 15th, told Budget Director Susie Park the city would be remiss to not at least look at the Uber idea if it could bring in more money.
“Do you think there’s a way to find compromise then, if the goal is partly based on congestion, but more importantly, why we’re all here is we’re trying to find revenue?” Lopez said. “We’re trying to find new money, and for this administration to say, ‘Well, we’re worried about whether there’s two people in an Uber or one, so we’re going to skip out on $10 million at a time we know this budget is already a little off,' next year’s going to be worse."
Park said the city’s estimate of $40 million is “conservative.”
And she said she questions the validity of Uber’s promise to cover any shortfall below $50 million per year in its ride share fee plan.
Lightfoot said her own congestion plan is “an initial step, not a final step,” and said the city would continue studying congestion and traffic. But Uber’s plan, which she said was five paragraphs in an email, “isn’t really a good faith proposal so we’re going to keep moving forward.”
The council Finance Committee approved Lightfoot’s budget revenue ordinance for 2020, including her ride share fee plan that increases from 72 cents to $3 the fee on single-passenger rides to and from downtown on weekdays between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. It also raises the fees on neighborhood single-passenger rides to $1.75, while lowering the fees charged to riders in multi-passenger pool services offered by Uber and Lyft, to 65 cents.
The full City Council is set to vote on the mayor’s budget next week.