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Research Suggests Rideshare Companies Need to Cut Emissions Under Washington State Law

Published on Feb 3, 2021 at 7:55 am in News.

As Uber and Lyft make public promises to reduce their carbon emissions, lawmakers in Washington state are looking for ways to ensure the rideshare companies follow through. Washington’s Legislature is currently looking at a measure that would give the state the ability to regulate air pollution by Lyft, Uber, and other ride-hailing services.

Supporters believe the potential law, House Bill 1075, is an important step given the growth of rideshare companies in recent years. According to Crosscut, multiple studies have found that rideshare vehicles emit more greenhouse gases per passenger mile traveled than the average car. This partly has to do with the time Uber and Lyft workers spend driving between trips.

One of the main concerns regarding passing House Bill 1075 is low-wage Uber and Lyft drivers having to absorb the costs of transitioning to all-electric vehicles. The prime sponsor of House Bill 1075, State Representative Liz Berry, believes the rideshare companies should shoulder those costs.

According to Berry, “We all know that transportation emissions make up nearly half of all emissions in Washington – and one of the fastest-growing sources of transportation emissions is from rides-share trips.” Just in Seattle, one report estimated that ridesharing trips led to an additional 94 million miles of driving in 2017. The increase was the result of people replacing transit or bus trips with car trips, as well as the extra miles Uber and Lyft drivers traveled between trips and to pick up passengers.

Ultimately, House Bill 1075 would direct the state Department of Ecology to set mandatory emission reduction targets for rideshare services. Companies like Uber and Lyft would need to submit plans by 2024 to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, following a pace set by the state. Those companies would have to provide annual reports with information like total miles driven to the state Department of Ecology. Emissions reduction plans would need to start by 2025. Failure to comply would result in fines detailed under the state’s Clean Air Act.

Currently, it appears rideshare companies are supporting the bills, stating that it would apply pressure across the industry to reduce emissions. A lobbyist for Uber, Caleb Weaver, acknowledged the company is committed to moving to all-electric by 2040, but believes the extra push wouldn’t hurt: “The public accountability, this data transparency … there is no doubt that is a forcing function for everybody in the industry to meet their goals.”