Just in time for 2018 Cactus League (MLB Preseason) baseball, the City of Scottsdale, Arizona has introduced an offering whereby visitors (defined as those with an address outside the metropolitan Phoenix area) can benefit from transportation subsidies if selecting among three transportation providers. Well subsidy is the wrong term. A shell game is far more appropriate, as the City Council has authorized using the proceeds of one tax (assessed on tourists) to help encourage the use of three specific transportation providers when used by tourists. A visitor to Scottsdale who understands the city's current game can keep $20 in their own pocket during a stay in Scottsdale, which is enough to get our attention!
Speaking of tourists in Arizona ...
How Did This Program Come to Be?
The city had conducted market research and found potential visitors believed there were few ride-hailing/shared-ride options available in Scottsdale, even when compared to Phoenix. And to think, we categorize Scottsdale as "effectively Phoenix" (just as major organizations such as the U.S. Census Bureau do).
According to consumer research, travelers believe Scottsdale provides fewer tourist transportation options than competitive destinations including Palm Springs, Austin, San Diego, Las Vegas, Miami, Santa Fe, San Antonio and Phoenix.
As a result of that finding, the city elected to use some proceeds of the hotel tax to subsidize transit activities of visitors, authorized as of late January 2018. We're happy to see a city government use the proceeds of a tax on visitors to benefit visitors -- in most cases (see our "Fee Detective" series), tourists are viewed simply as non-voting revenue sources for airports and municipalities! However, Scottsdale's ploy is to improve their favorability ranking when compared to locations such as Austin, Las Vegas, and Phoenix by providing a visitor-use subsidy for just three for-profit organizations (despite a large number of companies in their "Transportation Directory"). Those three beneficiaries?
We won't get into why the City Council decided to use tax revenue to support three for-profit enterprises while forsaking others -- that a question for the voters in Scottsdale, especially as Uber is getting subsidized fares without being listed in the Transportation Directory.
* Note to City Council: that just might be one reason individuals assume there's no Uber in town).
One thing is clear; you can be fully assured we would take advantage of the offer if we found ourselves visiting Scottsdale and in need of transit! When the two choices are "pay hotel taxes and get nothing back" or "pay hotel taxes and get $20 back", there's really no choice! So what are the catches for an individual with a home address outside the Phoenix region?
The City's Press Release shows that the program was authorized as of January 25, 2018. SuperShuttle and ExecuCar quickly updated their listing to reflect a discount code of RM4BY for 10% off trips between the airport and locations in Scottsdale. A consumer using Lyft or Uber has a bit more flexibility under the city's pilot; the traveler can get two discounts of up to $10 each when the start point and end point of a trip are within Scottsdale. With the ride-hailing companies; a visitor with a registered address outside of Scottsdale is likely to find the promotion directly within the relevant app -- it's the responsibility of those ride-hailing firms to discern whether a renter is non-local and traveling between points in Scottsdale.