Uber Set to Expand in District

Uber is seeking to expand beyond the ride-sharing industry in Washington, D.C., to provide a larger transportation network for District residents, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said in a panel discussion on the future of mobility with D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) on April 11. Uber’s new Greenlight Hub, …

Uber is seeking to expand beyond the ride-sharing industry in Washington, D.C., to provide a larger transportation network for District residents, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said in a panel discussion on the future of mobility with D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) on April 11.

Uber’s new Greenlight Hub, a driver resource center in Ward 7, hosted the event, led by Robert Puentes, the CEO of the Eno Center for Transportation, an independent think tank dedicated to improving transportation and its public and private leadership in order to increase the system’s mobility, safety and sustainability.

Bowser and Khosrowshahi emphasized the need to ensure that District residents all have equal access to the transportation services developed by Uber through increased safety measures, affordability and equity, while stressing the importance of resolving disparities in transportation access.

“Urban transportation has a major impact on the daily lives of all D.C. residents,” Bowser said at the event. “That is why we are committed to being the capital of mobility innovation and continue to invest in strategies that make our commutes safer, stronger, more reliable and more efficient for residents across all eight wards.”

Khosrowshahi challenged Bowser’s plan to raise taxes on ride-hailing companies like Uber to generate sufficient funding for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s funding package announcedearlier this year. In the plan, which was approved Friday, taxes on Uber will increase to 4.5 percent from 1 percent to fund a revitalization plan for the Metro transit system, which has suffered from safety and reliability issues,as well as a declining ridership.

PHOTO COURTESY COLIN TOOZE

Bowser defended the plan and said that it was the best option for the District moving forward.

“That is the package that we think is the most fair — that hits property owners, it hits visitors, it hits residents and it hits the ride-sharing services — that we think is best for the city,” Bowser said.

But Khosrowshahi said the tax is a reallocation of similar resources and argued the plan was taxing one form of transportation for another, rather than a productive tax.

Uber’s D.C. Director of Public Relations Colin Tooze said the company does not see itself in competition with Metro or public transportation but rather sees itself as a part of a “complex ecosystem” of different transportation options.

Uber’s recent acquisitions and partnerships demonstrate the company’s interest in moving into the public space, however. One recent acquisition, Masabi, a London-based mobile ticketing service, will allow Uber to integrate into public transportation.

“You can use your Uber app to take a train, to take a subway, to take buses again on a global basis so that we are promoting mass-transit solutions as well,” Khosrowshahi said.

Uber’s recent acquisitions include bike-share startup JUMP and mobile ticketing service Masabi, both of which allow the company to move into new transportation areas.

Uber’s partnership with SharedStreets allows D.C. and the company to share transportation data. Aggregated traffic information will help cities solve congestion, Khosrowshahi said. Uber Movement uses this aggregated user data to work with cities to improve urban planning.

The panelists said they hope D.C. residents will be empowered by the wide range of transportation options planned to become available to them through the public-private partnerships, allowing them to have easier transportation throughout the city.

“Uber is transitioning from being a service that allows people to request cars at the tap of a button, to being a mobility platform that brings together all kinds of ways to get from A to B,” Tooze said.

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Uber, Lyft Rates Expected to Rise After Tax Effect

The cost of ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft is expected to increase in 2019 when a tax that will help fund the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority takes effect. Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) signed the Dedicated Funding for the WMATA Emergency Act of 2018 on April 13.

The cost of ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft is expected to increase in 2019 when a tax that will help fund the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority takes effect.

Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) signed the Dedicated Funding for the WMATA Emergency Act of 2018 on April 13. Authored by D.C. Councilmember and Chairman of the Metro Board Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and passed unanimously by the Council, the bill authorizes the District to collect taxes to fund WMATA.

The legislation allocates $178.5 million per year in dedicated funding for WMATA through the 2059 fiscal year. These funds constitute the District’s share of an $500 million per year joint commitment with Virginia and Maryland to fund WMATA.

The Virginia General Assembly pledged $154 million per year to Metro funding March 7 on the condition that Maryland and D.C. also increase their contributions. Bowser pledged $178 million per year in her State of the District address March 15.

FILE PHOTO STEPHANIE YUAN/THE HOYA

The decision was part of a negotiation between Virginia, Maryland and D.C., by which each party would provide the $500 million that Metro’s leadership argued is necessary to make Metrorail a world-class system.

The additional funding aims to fix issues with Metro’s infrastructure, Bowser said. Metro plans to use the money to buy new rail cars and buses, upgrade track and power systems, modernize stations and make other broad improvements, according to a March 22 article in The Washington Post.

“The region has been working for years to solve the dedicated funding question, and now we finally have a path forward,” Bowser said in an April 13 news release. “With this commitment, we will get Metro back to a state of good repair so that Washingtonians have access to a safe and reliable Metro system for years to come.”

Bowser’s budget and financial plan for fiscal year 2019, a $14.5 billion budget, proposes funding the commitment through several channels that will remain sustainable and competitive in the future.

About $80 million of the annual revenue will come from increased taxes, including the ride-share tax. The commercial property tax rate is set to increase by 2 cents, and the sales tax will rise to 6 percent from 5.75 percent.

The tax on “for-hire” vehicle services such as Uber and Lyft will rise to 4.75 percent from 1 percent and is projected to account for nearly 10 percent of the $178.5 million allocated to WMATA funding.

Any increase in the tax will ultimately be reflected in the cost paid by users of ride-sharing apps, according to Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.

This increase would bring the cost of using ride-sharing services up to that of taxis, which are taxed at 50 cents per trip, according to a March 21 articlein The Washington Post.

The increased tax burden will likely fall on riders unable to access Metro transportation, Lyft Communication Manager Campbell Matthews wrote in an email to The Hoya.

“While we are supportive of efforts to improve transit options, it is also critical that rideshare remains affordable for the tens of thousands who rely on Lyft in DC – particularly those who live further from transit or need a ride when public transit doesn’t operate,” Matthews wrote.

The announcement of the tax follows an expanding partnership between the District and Uber, first announced at an April 11 panel discussion with Bowser and Khosrowshahi at Uber’s new Greenlight Hub, a location where drivers can receive in-person support.

Prior to the funding commitment, Metro was the only subway system in the United States that lacked consistent funding.

“Achieving a dedicated funding source for Metro is truly a historic occasion,” Evans said in the April 13 news release. “With these resources, soon, Metro will be able to adequately address deferred maintenance issues with the goal of making the system reliable and safe for riders.”

The tax on for-hire vehicle services follows the success of a similar policy passed last fall in Chicago to raise the tax to 52 cents from 37 to fund the Chicago Transit Authority.

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Taxi firms face claims over drivers’ rights in wake of Uber case

The battle for rights for gig economy workers is stepping up as the union behind legal action against Uber targets three taxi firms that say their drivers are not entitled to holiday pay or the minimum wage. Green Tomato Cars, which calls itself “London’s green and ethical car service”, luxury airport transfer …

The battle for rights for gig economy workers is stepping up as the union behind legal action against Uber targets three taxi firms that say their drivers are not entitled to holiday pay or the minimum wage.

Green Tomato Cars, which calls itself “London’s green and ethical car service”, luxury airport transfer specialist Blacklane and Birmingham’s A2B are facing claims from former drivers who say they are “workers” and not independent contractors as the car firms insist.

The cases are backed by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) union, which has won a string of successful cases on worker status, including against Uber. The ride-hailing app is to challenge the ruling at the court of appeal.

An employment tribunal test case backed by the GMB union also found that some Addison Lee drivers had been wrongly classed as self-employed. Addison Lee has been granted the right to appeal against the case.

“The bogus classification of private hire drivers as independent contractors in order to deprive them of employment rights is rampant across the sector. It’s not just Uber and Addison Lee,” Jason Moyer-Lee, the general secretary of the IWGB, said.

Nelson Salei, a former driver for Green Tomato, says he is a worker and so is entitled to be reimbursed unpaid holiday pay.

Salei worked for the private hire group for several months last year, usually on five-day rolling contracts. He left after claiming he was not paid for several days of a contract after a dispute over a fare that was booked but did not turn up. He said the non-payment just before Christmas “was really frustrating”. “I wanted to have a comfortable Christmas but I had to ask people to lend me money,” he said.

Salei earned £20 an hour on the contract, under which he promised to work only for Green Tomato and turn down work from other companies such as Uber, but estimates that he took home less than half of that after paying for petrol, insurance, maintenance and leasing his car. He says he never asked for holiday pay. “I didn’t know much about my rights,” he said.

Green Tomato Cars said it “prides itself on being an ethical company and, in particular, in our relationship with drivers”.

“We have discussed the situation with Mr Salei and his union representative through the Acas mediation process, and maintain our position that there are no grounds for his claim,” it added.

“We will of course comply with the requirements of the tribunal, where we expect to successfully defend the claim.”

Mariusz Jakubowski, who worked for Blacklane in Glasgow, until just before Christmas last year, said he didn’t receive a set rate for jobs. The app works by offering a rate for a job in a particular area that gradually increases until a driver takes it up.

Jakubowski left after he was fined by the company when a customer complained he handed them a personal business card, something he denies doing. He said he had rented out his car and stopped private-hire driving after leaving Blacklane. “I was earning good money,” he said. But after receiving the fine and being assaulted by a passenger while working for another taxi service he said: “I realised it wasn’t worth it.”

Berlin-based Blacklane, which operates in more than 250 cities around the world and is partly backed by the carmaker Daimler, said: “We have not received any official information, documentation or filings about this case. Therefore, we cannot comment in any meaningful way.”

A2B’s owner Veezu, which owns several private hire firms, did not respond to a request for comment.

The gig economy has proved to be a battleground for disputes about employment status involving firms such as takeaway company Deliveroo and courier firm CitySprint. Its emergence also prompted a full-blown government review into modern employment practices, led by Matthew Taylor, a former adviser to Tony Blair.

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Bogus self-employment is thought to deny basic rights to about 1.1 million couriers, minicab drivers and other workers.

Moyer-Lee said that the government had been slow to act on the prime minister’s promise to help workers and offered little in concrete action in response to the Taylor review. He called for better enforcement of employment rules.

“What we’ve seen in case after case is that the tribunal finds these people are workers, often in scathing terms, and that shows we’ve got a serious problem in enforcement of the law,” he said.

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UBER AND LEEDS UNITED JOIN FORCES

Uber and Leeds United team up to offer fans a seamless travel experience.

Uber and Leeds United are joining forces to help reduce congestion and address the transport challenges around Elland Road.

As part of the partnership Uber will encourage people not to drive to the stadium but to leave their cars at home and use the Uber app to connect to public transport options.

Not only will this help to reduce congestion around the stadium – it will also reduce emissions in the city.

Uber and Leeds United share a long-term goal of using technology to facilitate smart urban mobility that is affordable, safe, and highly efficient as part of the fan experience.

This includes:

·Creating an integrated Leeds United and Uber Fan Experience. Makingtravel with Uber part of the matchday experience for fans, whether that’s locally in Leeds or at away games across the UK.

·Reducing private car use and peak congestion in and around Elland Road. Get more visitors out of their own cars and using Uber and public transport by helping to optimise the pick up, drop off and traffic flow experiences to reduce congestion, parking and pollution.

·Leveraging innovative technology, data and expertise to support smarter public and community planning decisions. Uber and Leeds United will work closely on a sustainable transport plan as part of a core component of the Elland Road 2020 regeneration plan.

The tie up will kick off this weekend ahead of the Barnsley game where fans will notice dedicated Uber pick up and drop off points.

Tom Elvidge, General Manager UK, Uber said: “We’re delighted to be working with Leeds United and have some very ambitious plans to help them create the best fan experience possible, while helping to reduce congestion and improve air quality.

“Uber provides a great option for people travelling to games as they don’t have to worry about parking and can enjoy a drink or two. As a Leeds fan I can’t wait for my next trip to Elland Road!”

Leeds United managing director Angus Kinnear said: “This is a really exciting partnership for the club and we hope the fans will enjoy it.

“Getting to and from the stadium will now be a seamless experience and we’re exploring ways to make help fans travel for away games as well.

“Leaving the area after a game in private cars can lead to congestion and long wait times, so this deal will really help cut down congestion in the area.”

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Uber Eats driver arrested in mentally disabled man’s rape

Barron, now fired, had been working with Uber Eats since November. In a statement to Channel 2, Uber Eats said: “What’s been described is extremely disturbing and we are appalled. The delivery partner does not have access to the app and we stand ready to work with police on their investigation.”.

An Uber Eats driver accused of raping a disabled man at his job last month was arrested, Channel 2 Action News reported.

Todd Barron, 54, fled to California after the March 25 rape, but was caught when authorities discovered he booked a flight back to Atlanta, police told Channel 2.

RELATED: Mentally disabled man raped in bathroom at work, police say

Barron was arrested April 13 at the airport, according to Channel 2. He remains in the Fulton County jail without bond on charges of aggravated sodomy and abuse, neglect of exploitation of a disabled or elderly person.

Barron was at No Mas! Cantina on Walker Street picking up a delivery order, when he followed the 21-year-old victim to a bathroom and allegedly sodomized him, Channel 2 reported.

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The victim, described as having the mental capacity of an eighth grader, was preparing to start his shift when he was attacked.

Barron, now fired, had been working with Uber Eats since November.

In a statement to Channel 2, Uber Eats said: “What’s been described is extremely disturbing and we are appalled. The delivery partner does not have access to the app and we stand ready to work with police on their investigation.”

Barron’s next hearing is scheduled for April 27, Channel 2 reported.

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