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Dockless shared micromobility taxed 23x more than cars

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Dockless shared micromobility faces 23 times more taxes and fees per mile than personal cars.

The finding comes from a report co-authored by Lime, Portland State University, and Sonoma State University, which examines tax and fee structures across 120 cities in 16 countries.

Shared micromobility was found to be taxed twice through sales tax and programme fees which mean city governments receive on average 16.4% of the cost of every dockless e-bike or e-scooter.

“High fees contribute to negative outcomes for all parties – they increase the likelihood that programmes will close and drive higher prices for riders, both of which contradict cities’ transportation policy goals of sustainability and equity,” Lime Research Director Calvin Thigpen, who co-authored the study, told Zag Daily.

“Fees are a policy choice and should be thought of as such; they are not just a mundane administrative consideration. This is the same approach taken with other modes – governments subsidise public transport because they recognise it helps achieve outcomes they care about, while national governments tax driving due to its negative externalities.”

The report found no uniform approach to cities’ tax and fee policies for dockless shared micromobility, with the highest per-vehicle fee being over four hundred times the lowest.

Munich is one city that doesn’t impose fees on dockless shared micromobility, while Berlin only imposes fees in the city centre. Meanwhile other cities use ‘blind auctions’ during the procurement process which rewards operators based on their financial commitments and can lead to companies delivering poor service and not fulfilling their promises. 

The study also found that fee revenues mainly go towards covering programme administration costs – which 77% of respondents rated as the top consideration – rather than lowering rider costs or ensuring financial feasibility of micromobility companies.

“Trip affordability has been a complaint raised about micromobility travel. In some places, taxes and fees are a notable part of the cost story,” Kevin Fang, co-author and Assistant Professor and Director at Sonoma State University, said.

Recommendations from the report

For cities considering or reconsidering programme fees, the report advises that a mode of transport’s fees should be determined in line with policy goals. Going beyond parity, it argues for increased driving fees to match the externalities of cars.

It also recommends the simplification of programme fee structures to make it easier for shared mobility companies to forecast their costs.

Furthermore it highlights the second tax imposed on shared micromobility as riders pay sales tax and VAT on shared scooter and bike trips. It flags that fees disproportionately impact low-income riders and can be an obstacle to improving equity and access to zero-emission transport.

“As cities try to promote and encourage sustainable and equitable forms of mobility, we found that these goals are sometimes at odds with the practical need to support city programme administration costs of running shared mobility programs,” John MacArthur, co-author and Portland State University Sustainability Transportation Program Manager said.

“Cities are using a variety of fee and tax mechanisms to generate revenue to support programme staff, build infrastructure, and encourage operator behaviour. 

“The ultimate question is, what is the right balance to support these goals of sustainable and equitable mobility and provide an affordable experience for riders?”

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