by Todd Feurer, CBS Chicago web producer
CHICAGO (CBS) — In what her office described as the first step in her plan to reduce traffic congestion, Mayor Lori Lightfoot plans to hike taxes on most ride-share trips, including more than quadrupling the fee charged for solo rides in and out of downtown.
“Our city, like many others across the nation, has experienced skyrocketing congestion growth due in part to the rapid growth of ride-hailing companies, making it increasingly difficult for those who rely upon Chicago’s streets for commerce or transportation, and plaguing our downtown,” the mayor said in a statement announcing the $40 million congestion tax plan.
The increased ride-haling taxes are aimed at relieving congestion downtown, where nearly all ride-hailing trips begin or end, according to Lightfoot’s office.
Under the proposal the mayor is unveiling on Friday, the combined city taxes on a solo Uber, Lyft, of Via trip that starts or ends downtown would rise from 72 cents to $3. The taxes on a shared ride downtown would rise from 72 cents per trip to $1.25 per trip.
The increased downtown fees would apply between 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., when traffic is worst. The rest of the time, trips downtown would have the same fees as the rest of the city.
For the purposes of the congestion tax, the boundaries of downtown would be North Avenue from Lake Shore Drive to the north branch of the Chicago River, the north branch of the Chicago River from North Avenue to Grand Avenue, Grand Avenue from the north branch of the river to Ashland Avenue, Ashland from Grand to Van Buren Street, Van Buren from Ashland to Desplaines Street, Desplaines from Van Buren to Roosevelt Road, and Roosevelt from Desplaines to Lake Shore Drive.
Solo rides that neither start nor end downtown would rise from 72 cents per trip to $1.25.
Trips to and from O’Hare and Midway Airports, Navy Pier, or McCormick Place would continue to be assessed a flat $5 tax.
The only ride-share customers who would see their fees drop would be riders who share a trip that neither starts nor ends in the downtown area; those shared rides would be taxed 65 cents a trip, down from 72 cents.
The proposed congestion tax is subject to City Council approval.
The mayor’s office said the $40 million congestion tax plan is just the first step toward her goal for a wider congestion pricing plan for Chicago, similar to London, Stockholm, and Singapore. Each of those cities charge most drivers a tax to drive in the central business district. New York will launch a congestion pricing plan in the Manhattan area in 2021.
Some of the $40 million in revenue the city expects from the increased ride-hailing taxes would go to creating seven new CTA bus priority zones, which involve designating bus-only lanes along some of the busiest and most congested CTA routes, in an effort to speed up buses. In addition to bus-only lanes, the city said bus priority zones rely on reprogramming traffic signals to give buses priority, new pavement markings, new signs, relocating bus stops, curb extensions, and pedestrian refuge islands.
The routes under consideration for new bus priority zones are the #8/Halsted, #49/Western, #53/Pulaski, #63/63rd Street, #66/Chicago, #77/Belmont, and #79/79th Street.
The city will soon begin work on new bus only lanes on 79th Street near the 79th stop on the Red Line, as well as pedestrian refuge islands and “bus queue jump signals” which would give CTA buses a head start when the lights change at nearby intersections.
Revenue from the congestion tax also will be used to fund a study on a more comprehensive congestion pricing plan for the city.