The San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) is considering suing the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to show how the CPUC spends the annual revenues of more than $10 million it takes from Uber and Lyft.
According to the SFCTA, CPUC has kept its spending information secret. This claim came after the San Francisco Examiner published that the CPUC had raised over $67 million since 2013 when they started to collect fees from Uber and Lyft on top of the income they received from limo companies.
Aaron Peskin, the SFCTA supervisor, demanded to know why the CPUC hid its proceeds. Peskin asked his staff on January 23
“The PUC considers that to be highly classified information and won’t tell you how much money they have and what they’re spending it on?” Warren Logan, the SFCTA senior planner, replied to Peskin “We asked them how that’s spent and we didn’t get a clear answer.” This led Peskin to retort “We should initiate litigation against the CPUC for sunshine. At a minimum.” This statement led Peskin’s staff to initiate legal actions against SFCTA to reveal its income and spend of all the money it received from Uber and Lyft over the last five years.
The issue of CPUC sources came to light after SFCTA planners met with their commissioners to discuss Uber and Lyfts income impact on CPUC after determining that the other US cities a charge per trip fee to pay for administration costs as well as enable services to the disabled and other services when required. According to the planners, the CPUC regulates Transportation Network Companies (TNC’s) to pay 0.33% of their gross income in the State of California on a quarterly basis in addition to their overall CPUC fees and reimbursement account.
According to an SFTCA staff report, “The project team has not been able to determine how much revenue has been generated from TNC fees paid to the CPUC and how these fees have been used,”
Although the CPUC refused to reply to the SFCTA, the San Francisco Examiner managed to get its hands on official CPUC documents proving that they had received $67 million from Uber and Lyft since 2013. The CPUC did not show in the document the distribution of the money from other rideshare companies such as Wingz and Sidecar.
According to the SFCTA, the CPUC set up a reimbursement account for the income received from Uber and Lyft “for the purpose of funding any expenses incurred by the CPUC in regulating TNCs, TNC drivers, and TNC vehicles.”
The CPUC was given regulatory control over the safety of ride-hail companies and to assure compliance over many issues ranging from the mileage of vehicles to the screening checks of drivers.
According to the San Francisco Examiner, the fiscal yearly incomes to the CPUC were:
$15.3 million in 2013-14,
$15.6 million in 2014-15,
$16.5 million in 2015-16,
$20.1 million in 2016-17.
Due to these findings, the SFCTA demands that the CPUC reveal all its sources since they believe more hidden incomes might have been misappropriated by the CPUC.
The SFCTA filed a subpoena with the City Attorneys Office (CAO) requesting four years worth of fees paid by Lyft to the CPUC. Lyft is currently complying with the request and is providing all the details and amounts relating to payments made for all their eight categories including all driver incentives. Uber is also complying to turn over some of its data but has appealed to the City Attorney’s Office regarding turning over all of its data.
While the CAO is dealing with the materials directly from Uber and Lyft, the SFCTA is still pursuing other legal steps and actions to be taken, according to Eric Young the SFCTA spokesperson “the Transportation Authority is conferring with our attorneys about next steps.”
The SFCTA held a meeting last Tuesday, and Peskin told the media and press “If anyone from the PUC is watching, the fact that this public information is not open to local governments, to members of the public, to people of the state of California is just mind-boggling.”