New York City is limiting the growth of Uber, Lyft and other app-based ridesharing services with a temporary cap on new cars picking up fares.



Yellow taxis and black town cars on Manhattan's Central Park West, February 20, 2018
(Photo by Can Pac Swire)



The City Council approved and on Tuesday Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a package of bills that includes a one-year moratorium on new licenses for for-hire vehicles while the Taxi and Limousine Commission studies the fast-changing industry.


City Council also voted to set a minimum driver wage equivalent to the yellow cab wage for app-based drivers.


"The City is sending a clear message: we’re putting hardworking New Yorkers ahead of corporations," said Mayor Bill de Blasio. "The City Council has spoken boldly, and now we can act. We are taking immediate action for the benefit of more than 100,000 hard-working New Yorkers who deserve a fair wage, and halting the flood of new cars grinding our streets to a halt."


Supporters of the bills said both the traditional yellow cab industry and drivers for app-based services are suffering as Uber and Lyft cars flood New York streets.


In 2015, 25,000 ride-hailing vehicles were licensed in the city. Today, there are about 80,000 such vehicles.


The explosion of ride-hailing services has come at a time of increasing congestion on New York streets and falling wages for taxi, livery and black-car drivers. There are about 13,500 yellow cabs in the city and about 32,000 livery and traditional black cars.


Backers of the measures said the growth of ride-hailing apps has worsened traffic congestion in the city.


Council Member Stephen Levin introduced the bill which requires the Taxi and Limousine Commission to study and decide whether to adopt regulations on the number of for-hire vehicle licenses New York City issues.


"In a just a few years," said Levin, "the number of for-hire vehicles in our city has increased dramatically, snarling traffic and sparking a race to the bottom where all drivers are struggling to make more than poverty wages."


"An average of 2,000 additional vehicles hit the streets every month while drivers already spend nearly half their time with empty seats," Levin said.


During the one-year study, no new for-hire vehicle licenses will be issued, with an exception for wheelchair-accessible vehicles.


Another bill, sponsored by Council Member Brad Lander, would require the Taxi and Limousine Commission to set minimum payments to for-hire vehicle drivers for trips dispatched by high-volume for-hire services.


"I’m proud that my bill to make New York City the first major U.S. city to establish a minimum pay standard and living wage requirement for Uber and Lyft drivers is part of the City Council’s much-needed legislative package on for-hire vehicles," Lander said.


He gave "Huge thanks to the courageous for-hire drivers for organizing tirelessly and ringing the alarm bell on driver pay."


The city's more than 100,000 taxi and for-hire vehicle drivers drivers support the new limits on ride-hailing vehicles.


The nonprofit New York Taxi Workers Alliance says at least four drivers have killed themselves since December in response to mounting financial pressures, as ride-hailing apps take fares that were once theirs. Other taxi drivers, some of whom are losing their houses, are homeless today.


Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, said, “This victory belongs to yellow taxi, green cab, livery, black car, Uber and Lyft drivers who united together in our union to transform our shared struggle and heartbreak into hope and strength. The legislation passed by City Council didn't just set a precedent for our city, it set a precedent for the entire world."


Taxi drivers welcome the measures, but ride-hailing companies warn a cap on the number of new cars picking up fares will lead to higher fares and reduced service to the outer boroughs: Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.


Joseph Okpaku, vice president of public policy for Lyft, told the "Wall Street Journal," that, "These sweeping cuts to transportation will bring New Yorkers back to an era of struggling to get a ride, particularly for communities of color and in the outer boroughs."


Complained Uber spokesperson Danielle Filson, "The city’s 12-month pause on new vehicle licenses will threaten one of the few reliable transportation options while doing nothing to fix the subways or ease congestion."




By Sunny Lewis

Environment News Service (ENS)

August 20, 2018