Added fee on ride-hailing trips to fund public transit 'a fantastic idea,' TTC chair says

Adding an additional fee onto ride-hailing trips to help pay for Toronto's growing public transit network is a "fantastic idea," said TTC chair Josh Colle on Friday.

'We need to look at all the resources we can to fund public transit,' said TTC chair Josh Colle

Late last year, Chicago adopted an 'Uber tax' to help fund public transit. While no official plans have been announced, TTC chair Josh Colle suggested Friday that it could eventually end up on council's agenda for consideration.

Adding an additional fee onto ride-hailing trips to help pay for Toronto's growing public transit network is a "fantastic idea," said TTC chair Josh Colle on Friday.

"It is budget time in the city of Toronto, and we need to look at all the resources we can to fund public transit," he told Metro Morning.

Colle responded after he was asked if he would support something like Chicago's recently adopted 'Uber tax' — a $0.15 increase on the $0.52 cents the city already requires ride-haling services to add to a rider's bill.

"I certainly would," Colle told host Matt Galloway. "I don't want to give away anything we might be doing soon, but I think that's a fantastic idea."

Officials in Chicago said late last year that the charge will generate up to $18-million in new revenue in 2018 for the city's transit authority, and some $30-million by the end of 2019 when the fee goes up another five cents.

Toronto city council added its own so-called 'city fee' of $0.30 to ride-hailing bills when it enacted a broad set of reforms for the industry in 2016.

But as the TTC looks to modernize and expand its network, upgrade existing infrastructure and improve the rider experience, it will need to consider new and creative sources of funding to buttress its $545 million operating budget amid sagging ridership numbers, Colle said. An additional fee for services Lyft and Uber "could be a very useful tool" for doing so, he added.

"We recognize that we can't only rely on property taxes to fund a variety of things in Toronto," Colle explained. 

On Thursday, the TTC board approved the transit provider's newest five-year corporate plan. While the 60 page document specifically highlights Chicago's fee, it does not explicitly endorse the move, an option Colle admits would have to get city council approval.

Interestingly, the plan also points to how other North American and European cities have formed partnerships with ride-hailing providers, whether it's to "borrow technology or data" or to help customers with "the last mile" of their trips.

"Instead of running a 40 foot bus into some tiny nooks in suburban parts of the city — instead you pair" with a service to take riders on that final leg, Colle said. It's an idea that would certainly be "controversial" in Toronto, where ride-hailing companies have faced fierce opposition from the taxi industry and labour advocates. 

"Five years ago, when we did a plan like this, ride sharing wasn't really an issue ... The world has changed so we have to make sure we keep up with it and keep people moving around the city," said Colle.