San Antonio City Council reviews financial impact of deregulating taxis like Uber & Lyft

by Sean Riley


San Antonio City Council members are wrestling with how to reduce fees for taxis — as part of an overall effort to ease regulations on that industry — while still generating enough money to pay for what regulation remains.

City staff this week shared with council members financial projections that show the bottom-line impact of cutting some taxi fees while also raising other fees paid by taxis and transportation network companies, or TNCs, the industry term for ride-hailing app providers such as Uber Technologies Inc. The changes would impact the budgets of both the city’s ground transportation unit, which is charged with enforcing rules governing vehicles for hire, and San Antonio International Airport.

The city is in negotiations with the taxi industry and TNCs about such changes, the results of which will shape how people are able to move around the city without their own cars. Those negotiations are being shared with council members.

Under the scenario proposed to the council, the ground transportation unit’s net income would drop from $270,281 to $55,581. Its revenue would fall from the $648,600 that it generated this year to about $433,900. The bulk of that revenue is from fees paid by the taxi industry, which equaled $389,840 this year but would drop to $221,500 if the plan is approved.

"Those are only the basic operational costs. It only pays the staff salaries and business expenses for that unit," said Steve Baum, assistant police director of the San Antonio Police Department. "We would be just above break even."

Unlike the city’s ground transportation unit, airport officials said they are already operating in the red when it comes to regulating taxis and TNCs at the airport. This year, the airport reported a $112,237 loss with respect to that function when capital expenses are factored in.

The hottest submarkets in San Antonio included the area surrounding the airport and in the urban core, especially what appeared to be the hotel district, according to data shared with the City Council during the meeting.