The District’s public transportation system has its fair share of problems, from poor management to the system catching on fire. The D.C. Council’s latest measure aims to improve the system by raising a tax on another form of transportation. The legislation will increase a revenue tax on ride-hailing platforms like Uber and Lyft from 1 to 6 percent, which providers said they will tack on to the total cost of the ride.
People 16 to 24 years old make up the largest age group on Uber at 37 percent of the platform’s users – which means students will be largely impacted by this change. Raising taxes on rides makes the service less affordable and students will no longer be able to rely on Uber and Lyft as cheaper and more accessible for students than public transportation.
The Metro system may be effective for commuters working 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. jobs, but students are on a much different schedule. Many students work jobs or internships that are squeezed into their class schedule. If a student’s shift at work begins shortly after finishing a class, they might not have time to take the Metro. In these cases, taking an Uber or Lyft rather than public transportation is almost always faster, but the new tax could make it less affordable for them to balance a job or internship with their class schedule.
Metro stations also aren’t located near all college campuses. Students on the Foggy Bottom campus are lucky to have both the Foggy Bottom and Farragut West Metro stations conveniently located nearby, but students at Georgetown and American universities aren’t as fortunate. Georgetown University’s closest station is on GW’s campus, meaning students there would have to walk about 15 minutes to access the station. Even though American University provides a free shuttle to and from the closest station, it can still be inconvenient to access. For students at these universities, they will see an increased fare without being able to utilize the improved Metro system that the extra charge is funding.
Services like Uber and Lyft are convenient. For students at universities around D.C., these services can be the only way they are able to juggle an internship or job with classes. Hopping in an Uber can also be the best way for students to explore D.C., providing an important educational experience. While these services are valuable to students for a variety of reasons, an increased tax could render them unusable because they are no longer as affordable.
In addition to being easily accessible, taking an Uber or Lyft can also be cheaper for students. An annual Metro pass costs between $72 and $216 per month, which is unrealistic for many students. Especially for students who don’t have a daily commute or travel in groups, these prices outweigh the cost of splitting a ride with friends or taking a shared service like UberPOOL.
While public transportation is often regarded as the least expensive way to get around, prices can add up and students can save by taking ride-hailing services when needed and paying a few bucks to share a car.
By hiking the tax on ride-hailing services, students will suffer. Increased costs for transportation between campus and a workplace could make it unaffordable to secure a job or internship. And not all students attend school in the center of the city, meaning they can’t take advantage of the Metro funding that the tax is creating. Increasing taxes on ride-hailing services may have been done with good intentions, but it’s not good for students in the District.
Kiran Hoeffner-Shah, a sophomore majoring in political science, is the Hatchet’s contributing opinions editor.
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