Uber has upped a nationwide booking fee for riders that is designed to pay for things like regulatory, safety and operational costs, and in Seattle that charge has gone up from $1.30 to $1.65 per ride.
These fees range by city and are included in every ride. A quick search of Uber’s trip estimator showed that Seattle has a lower booking cost than other West Coast cities. In Portland for example, the booking cost is $1.70, and in San Francisco is $1.75. In most cities, like Seattle, the fee rose $.35, and in 13 cities, the increase was only $.20.
Uber sent the following statement regarding the booking fee increase:
“We increased our booking fee based on the results of a regular review of our business costs,” the company said. “The booking fee is a separate flat fee added to every trip that helps support regulatory, safety and operational costs. We notified riders and driver-partners of these changes before they were made.”
Uber is certainly facing a host of regulatory challenges here in Seattle, with the city in the midst of enacting a first-of-its-kind law that lets drivers for ride-hailing companies decide if they want to bargain collectively. In January, on the day the law was set to go into effect, Uber subsidiary Rasier filed a petition in King County Superior Court aiming to block many of the ordinance’s key provisions. In addition, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, representing Uber and other companies, re-filed a lawsuit against the city’s ordinance, arguing that the driver unionization ordinance violates federal labor laws related to independent contractors.
Uber is also facing a lawsuit from Google self-driving car spinout Waymo, alleging that former Google engineers stole intellectual property on their way out the door before starting a new company Otto, which was later acquired by Uber and now plays a big role in its self-driving vehicle research. Uber denied those claims, calling the lawsuit a “baseless attempt to slow down a competitor.”
Uber has piled up big financial losses over the years, including a possible $3 billion in 2016, but that hasn’t stopped it from becoming the the most valuable privately-held tech company in the world, according to CB Insights, with a valuation of $69 billion. Previous reports have indicated that a big drag on Uber’s balance sheets comes from the costly price wars it is waging with competitors like Lyft and the subsidies it is paying drivers to make up for lost income due to reduced prices. Increasing things like the booking fees could help deal with those costs.