Despite complaints from a lobbyist for Lyft and one of its drivers, Evanston aldermen Monday night voted to move forward with a tax on ride-hailing services along with nearly a dozen other tax and fee changes as they moved toward adopting the 2018 city budget next week.

Matt Patton, midwest public policy manager at Lyft, said the company “fills a major gap in the transit system” and claimed that a majority of its rides in Chicago service “underserved neighborhoods.”

He said the “unnecessary tax” of 20-cents per ride would discourage use of the service.

Nolan Robinson.

Nolan Robinson said he’s a 17-year resident of Evanston and now is driving for Lyft to help pay tuition for his two kids in college. He also voiced fears that the tax would discourage use of the service.

Ann Rainey.

But Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said, “Uber and Lyft are multi-billion dollar companies. For them to send a guy to tell us what a burden this tax is going to be on them is absolutely insulting.”

“I use ride share all the time, and I’m not going to stop tipping ride share drivers” because of the new tax. “Drivers have had this beaten into their heads by the companies that it will kill business,” she added. “This is not going to kill your business.”

None of the aldermen objected to the new transportation network provider tax, but there were a few dissenters on other planned increases.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, objected to raising parking meter fines from $10 to $20, saying it would add to the frustration of the shoppers the city is trying to attract to local businesses. But that increase won support from the other eight aldermen.

Fiske sought to extend a planned new 7.5 percent tax on vacation rental room rates to cover bed and breakfast establishments. That idea went down to defeat amid questions about how much it would raise and whether city restrictions on B&Bs put them in a different category from the vacation rentals, but she picked up support from aldermen Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, and Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward.

The tax rate on vacation rentals will match the rate charged on hotel rooms.

Fiske objected to increases in fees charged for review of historic preservation projects, saying owners of historic homes make a huge contribution to the city by updating their properties. Rainey joined her in a failed effort to defeat that increase.

Fleming objected to plans to adjust rooming house license fees — saying it might adversely impact older peole who wanted to rent out rooms to be able to stay in their own homes. Given the way the rate changes are structured, most small rooming houses would actually see a slight reduction in charges under the proposal, which the aldermen backed on an 8-1 vote. Most of the rooming house fees are paid by Northwestern University for its dormitories.

Proposals to increase parking meter and parking garage rates, to boost building permit fees and expand contractor licensing requirements and to make offsetting changes in water and sewer rates advanced without any objections.

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Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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1 Comment

  1. Rooming House Fees

    The rooming house fees are a joke simply because they are supposed to cover annual inspections at Northwestern AND all hotels in the city which almost never occurs on a serious and professional level due to understaffing.. The fees are simply a tax and I’m surprised there isn’t push back from the affected parties.

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