Boston's Logan Airport signage directs passengers to various transportation modes, including TNCs.

Boston's Logan Airport signage directs passengers to various transportation modes, including TNCs.

File photo

Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito recently filed legislation to build on the state's oversight of transportation network companies (TNCs) by improving public safety requirements and obtaining additional ride data to assist with transportation planning, congestion management, and vehicle emissions tracking.

The legislation, titled "An Act Relative to Transportation Network Companies," would also provide needed flexibility for the ban on surge pricing during a state of emergency, and expand the types of companies subject to state TNC laws and regulations.

“The safety of Massachusetts residents and visitors is our top priority and this legislation will institute additional public safety measures for passengers and law enforcement, provide important information to transportation planners, and reduce administrative burdens for cities and towns,” Baker said in a news release about the legislation’s filing.

The Administration previously filed "An Act Relative to Public Safety and Transparency by Transportation Network Companies" in 2019, but now the legislation includes a newly filed provision that gives the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) exclusive authority to regulate large livery companies operating throughout the state on a digital network. This provision will ensure that livery companies operating on a digital network with over 100 drivers will be subject to the statewide TNC laws and regulations. Smaller livery companies will remain regulated at the municipal level, regardless of whether they operate on a digital network.      

The proposal would build on Massachusetts’s TNC safety and enforcement laws, some of the most stringent and comprehensive in the country, by:

  • Increasing fines and penalties, up to two and half years in a House of Correction, for the practice of “account renting,” or allowing another individual to utilize a TNC driver’s account or identity, to provide TNC services.
  • Making it a criminal offense for a driver to exploit the personal information of a rider to stalk, harass, or defraud a rider.
  • Implementing tougher penalties for drivers who:
    • Fail to maintain a driver certificate or a background check clearance certificate.
    • Fail to display TNC vehicle decals.
    • ​​​​​​​Fail to maintain adequate insurance or carry proof of a TNC vehicle inspection.

This legislation also allows for new transportation data to be collected from TNCs and eases the administrative burden on small towns. Specifically, the bill will:

  • Authorize the DPU to obtain more detailed trip data from TNCs on a monthly basis that can then be shared in an anonymous and confidential manner with state agencies, municipalities, and local organizations for planning purposes.  
  • The more detailed data called for in this legislation includes total miles and minutes when drivers are en-route to pick up riders and when they are providing rides; whether riders were successfully matched for shared rides; and additional data on accidents and reasonable accommodations.
  • Allow better emissions data to be collected by requiring TNCs to report the total miles and minutes that each vehicle is on the road, together with vehicle make, model and year information.
  • Reduce the reporting requirements for communities that receive $25,000 or less annually from TNCs and allow those communities to make spending decisions on those relatively small funds without going through their local appropriation process.

The additional data will help transportation planners analyze how rides impact transportation infrastructure and the environment, and allow them to make more informed decisions about the location of dedicated bus lanes, specific investments in infrastructure, and overall impacts from vehicle emissions.

The legislation also gives the DPU the authority to determine whether it is appropriate to permit TNCs to utilize surge pricing during a state of emergency. Enabling surge pricing under certain circumstances and with appropriate limitations could increase the supply of drivers, which reduces wait times and ensures reliable transportation options.