Excerpted from WBUR Guide By Zeninjor Enwemeka
The Baker administration wants to collect more data on ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft and impose strict new penalties on drivers who stalk riders or share their accounts with unauthorized individuals.
The legislation Gov. Charlie Baker filed Wednesday builds on the 2016 ride-hailing law, which implemented some of the country’s strongest background checks on drivers.
Baker says the new bill would put necessary measures in place as ride-hailing continues to get more popular in Massachusetts. According to state data, rides on these services increased 25%, to 81.3 million, from 2017 to 2018. And ride-hailing brought in — from a required 20-cent-per-ride fee — $6.5 million last year in revenue for cities and towns, according to Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito.
“This bill enhances public safety, provides necessary information to transportation planners while maintaining confidentiality, and reduces administrative burdens on our cities and towns,” Baker said Wednesday.
Here’s a look at four key provisions in the legislation:
1. More Data Collected On Your Ride
The bill would require companies like Uber and Lyft to share more detailed data with the Department of Public Utilities. (The data the state currently collects only shows where trips start and end by city or town.) If enacted, the new anonymized data would include when and where a ride starts and ends — to the nearest minute and to within 110 yards of the location — Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides said Wednesday.
Ride-hailing companies would also be required to share data on crashes, along with whether a ride was shared with other passengers. The state also hopes to get better emissions data, as the bill would require information on the make and model of each vehicle, and when a driver is in route to pick up a passenger.
Baker says the more detailed data would allow municipalities to make more strategic transportation planning decisions, “like the location of dedicated bus lanes, ways to encourage carpooling and investments in infrastructure.”
Congestion is already a concern with ride-hailing. One report found the services have exacerbated traffic in Greater Boston. There have been similar findings in other cities too.
2. More Fines For Drivers
Under the bill, drivers would face fines up to $1,000 for failing to have insurance or proof of inspection, display company decals, or carry driver certification or a background check certificate.
More than 210,500 ride-hailing drivers have been approved by the state since 2017, according to Secretary Theoharides.
3. Jail Time For Drivers Who Share Accounts
Under the new bill, so-called “account renting” would result in fines and penalties, including up to two and half years in jail. This is when a driver allows someone else to use their ride-hailing account to pick up riders. Last April, state police identified a man who was unlawfully using another person’s ride-hailing account, and he was later found to have a violent criminal history in two other states, according to Baker.
4. Crack Down On Stalking And Harassment
The bill would also make it a criminal offense for a driver to use a rider’s personal information to stalk, harass or defraud them. Drivers could face two years in jail for this violation.
“The point of legislation is to say, you are providing someone with a professional service, period. And that should be the beginning and the end of your relationship with them,” Baker said.