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Boston ride-hail fee increase could lead to more money for infrastructure improvements

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Though it’s unlikely to curb congestion in the city

The back windshield of a car making its way through a downtown, and there’s a U sticker on the windshield. Boston Globe via Getty Images

The Walsh administration wants state lawmakers to allow towns and cities such as Boston to increase the fees that ride-hail companies such as Uber and Lyft have to pay per ride.

Currently, the companies pay 20 cents for each ride they complete, with half that fee going to the municipality where the ride originated and the rest split between the state and a fund to aid the conventional taxi industry that the ride-hails have done so much to decimate.

It is unclear what any per-ride fee would be, but it would likely be an increase from the current 20 cents. Even so, it’s also likely to be on the lower side compared with other cities. New York, for instance, is ready to enforce a per-ride fee of as much as $2.75 in busier parts of Manhattan.

That fee is lower for trips where passengers share the ride-hail. Such an approach is likely to hold with any increased fee in Boston, too, per the Globe’s Adam Vaccaro.

A higher fee is unlikely to reduce congestion, though. That is because the 2016 law that instituted the 20-cent fee requires the ride-hail companies to pay it and to not pass along the cost to riders. In other words, riders are ostensibly not feeling any pinch from the fee—and therefore have no incentive to take mass transit, share a ride, bike, walk, etc.

Still, Boston got about $3.5 million from its share of the fee in 2018, the first year those shares were disbursed. Officials say the money went toward infrastructure tweaks such as intersection redesigns, a Bluebikes expansion, and transit signal fixes.