Transportation Policy

D.C. Councilman Says New Taxes on Uber, Booze Are 'Very Exciting'

Those taxes will fund the D.C. subway system, and that councilman just so happens to be chairman of the system's board of directors.



It's been a long night in the nation's capital, and you've had a little too much to drink. The Metro is already closed—of course—so you grab an Uber to get back to your apartment.

Thanks to a host of new taxes approved by the Washington, D.C., City Council this week, this very scenario—one that plays out hundreds, if not thousands of times every weekend in D.C.—will net a whole bunch of tax revenue for the city's subway system. You know, the one that wasn't running when you tried to use it.

Mayor Muriel Bowser signed a bill last month promising more than $178 million in annual "dedicated funding" for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), which is just another way of saying that people who never use the Metro or any other WMATA service (like buses) will soon be on the hook to pay for them anyway. The funding is necessary, WMATA says, because costs have climbed while ridership has fallen That has happened because consumers choose to spend their money on more reliable options like Uber, fleets of scooters, and other transportation methods that don't burst into flames or shut down for months at a time.

To fund that promise, the D.C. City Council this week gave preliminary approval to new taxes on alcohol and on ride-sharing apps. The current penny-per-dollar tax on Uber, Lyft, and the like will increase by a whopping 500 percent, while the tax on alcohol gets a more modest bump from 10 percent to 10.25 percent, and the city's general sales tax will increase increase from 5.75 to 6 percent. The new taxes will take effect in October.

Increasing taxes on consumers to fund the bloated Metro system is "very exciting," Council member Jack Evans told WAMU, a local radio station.

Other people in D.C. might be less enthused. But then Evans isn't like most people in the city. Besides sitting on the City Council, he's also the chairman of the WMATA's board of directors—so his support for the new taxes is literally a vote in favor of giving himself more money to spend. He was a champion for the "dedicated funding" plan too, no surprise. After it's passage, he told WAMU that the vote was "a historic occasion."

"I would say this is the most important thing that's happened at Metro in the last 40 years since Metro started," he proclaimed.

That sentiment gives you an idea about the WMATA's priorities. Obtaining a stream of tax revenue that's not dependent on actually serving customers is "the most important thing," not the opening of new lines, or the adoption of new technology, or the maintaining of a perfect safety record.

Forcing people who don't use the Metro to pay for it is unlikely to solve any of the transit agency's fiscal problems. Problems like the bloated mess of bad contracts, or the fact that more than 1,000 of WMATA's 12,500 employees make salaries in excess of six figures. Personnel costs (those salaries and the pensions for retired Metro workers) account for a whopping 74 percent of the agency's operating costs. Unfunded pension and health care liabilities come to nearly $3 billion. Efforts to rein in those costs—say, by shifting workers into 401(k)-style pension plans—have predictably been opposed by unions and Democratic politicians.

Meanwhile, ridership declined by 12 percent during 2016, while the system's budget deficit ballooned to $125 million.

And the problems at the top manifest themselves in a workplace culture that leaves something to be desired. "Consciously or subconsciously, everyone at Metro knows they've got a job for life, unless they sit there and smoke crack in the middle of the platform," one former WMATA mechanic told Washingtonian in 2015.

More tax money won't fix the Metro, but it will make a night out and a ride home a little more expensive.

NEXT: It's Time To Put Our Federal Meat Inspection Law Out To Pasture

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  1. Robbing people is exciting.

    1. This is why we love public sector unions. Other unions are limited by the restrictions of the market and can eventually price themselves out of work. Public sector unions have the coercive force of government and can just steal money to pay themselves.

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    2. I just got paid $6784 working off my laptop this month. And if you think that?s cool, my divorced friend has twin toddlers and made over $9k her first month. It feels so good making so much money when other people have to work for so much less.
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  2. Taxing Uber Always

  3. Of course it’s exciting. Taxes is authoritarianism by other means. Progressives have a limited imagination on *fixing* perceived social ills or problems. All of it generally comes down to….tax it!

    Some nuance there, eh?

  4. “The funding is necessary, WMATA says, because costs have climbed while ridership has fallen.”

    Revealed preference rears its ugly head.

    1. And from both sides. Choice or coercion.

  5. TOP MEN!

  6. Communists love to tax, regulate, and control.

    It gets them very hot.

    1. Who else gets a boner from new taxes?

      1. Right-wingers would be getting boners from new government micromanagement of health care clinics to flatter childish superstition and gullible hicks, but Limbaugh and Trump gobbled all the boner pills.

        Carry on, clingers. More stale, authoritarian, bigoted conservative values, maybe?

        1. Wow, your world is medicated! Ever consider adjusting your dosage? All those bumper sticker stereotypes packed into one place… guess you can’t see out the rear window anymore and grab inspiration from the rear view mirror? I recommend only one bumper sticker on anyones car: Hang Up and Drive.

        2. Not your best work, rev.

        3. Yawn,
          That one was boring.
          Try harder.

  7. Tax fetish? Perverts

  8. Jack Evans, Jack Evans
    Riding through the land
    Jack Evans, Jack Evans
    Without a merry band
    He steals from the poor
    And gives to the rich
    Stupid bitch

  9. Increasing taxes on consumers to fund the bloated Metro system is “very exciting,” Council member Jack Evans [said]. “I would say this is the most important thing that’s happened at Metro in the last 40 years since Metro started,” he proclaimed.

    How about taxing *masturbation*, Jack?

  10. Personnel costs (those salaries and the pensions for retired Metro workers) account for a whopping 74 percent of the agency’s operating costs.

    Say what you will about WMATA’s abilities as a transportation producer, we have to give them full marks as a jobs program.

  11. You know what else is exciting? When this country inevitably devolves into anarchy and the statists are summarily executed.

    1. America gets less rural, less religious, less white, less bigoted, less backward, and less insular every day, shortviking.

      You lose. You have been losing, for a half-century or more, and you will continue to lose until you perform a civic service by taking your stale, ugly thinking to the grave and are replaced by a younger, better American in our electorate.

      Until then . . . carry on, clinger.

      1. Artie, I don’t mind that you’re a bit of an idiot.

        It’s that you are so fucking dull.

        The phrase “Wow, good post by Artie” hasn’t ever been uttered in the annals of history. Even YOU are bored by your tedious posting.

      2. Seems to me that an organism that relies on another for survival is a clinger.

        You know, like those who hate the rich but love the tax income they generate?

  12. Another brilliant example of how D.C. continues to lead the country in the Useless Jobs industry which is so vital to our national economy.

    Besides someone has to follow up on those TPS reports. Did you get the memo? Yes? I’ll have my secretary send out another one.

  13. If I condense this correctly, DC city council is effetively saying ‘we can’t figure out how to run public transportation in a metropolitan area, so we’ll just pick something that looks like a competitor to punish’. Every one of these asshats needs to resign, and get a fresh council in place. I have ridden the subway in NYC, but not DC so unfortunately I can’t compare the experience. But DC has a peculiar problem: while metropolitan, they don’t have anywhere near the population density to cover costs. If they aren’t automated [like the trains running around Heathrow], there’s one cost to cut. If they paid too much for hardware…nobody can fix stupid.
    One last miscalculation to address: government reliably gives preferrred parking to staff, not anything resembling “customers”. If you ever wondered if a building is a private entity or a government front, the parking layout tells all. If DC city hacks think federal employees are going to give up their killer parking spots so they can walk in the rain and snow to/from work… that’s a very special kind of stupid. A rapacious 20% Uber tax wouldn’t fix that either.

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