Three months ago, the New York City taxi industry put forward a proposal to cap Uber’s growth and limit competition in the marketplace. Now, Mayor de Blasio’s administration and City Councilmembers Ydanis Rodriguez and Stephen Levin are presenting a nearly identical proposal before the City Council that would stop thousands of drivers from joining the Uber platform, under the guise of controlling congestion in the city. This legislation, if enacted, would destroy 10,000 job opportunities for New Yorkers, especially those living in Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx and Upper Manhattan, and it would result in longer wait times, higher prices, and less reliable service for riders.
As for the argument that congestion is a major issue worth confronting? We couldn’t agree more. Every New Yorker knows that congestion is a problem in the city; it’s a big problem, and big problems deserve smart policy solutions, informed by facts.
So, here are the facts:
- For-hire vehicles associated with Uber bases represent only 1% of the 2.7 million vehicles entering the City on a given day.
- For-hire vehicles are among the most highly utilized vehicles on NYC streets.
- For-hire vehicles are more likely to carry multiple passengers on a trip than single occupancy vehicles—which make up the vast majority of vehicles in the city.
So what was the original taxi industry proposal? Earlier this year, the “Committee for Taxi Safety” (a taxi trade group funded by taxi medallion owners), called for constraints on the growth of for-hire options. These same special interests have historically opposed congestion-limiting policies—so why the about-face? Clearly, this proposal was designed solely as a means to limit competition and job creation.
Enter Council Bills 842 and 847.
Bill 842, recently introduced by Councilmembers Ydanis Rodriguez and Stephen Levin, would make it nearly impossible to add a for-hire vehicle in the city of New York; Bill 847 introduced by Councilmember Rodriguez would authorize a study on the impact of the for-hire industry on congestion in New York City.
The real danger of this proposal is to the 10,000 new drivers who were projected to join the for-hire industry in the coming year. The overwhelming majority of current Uber driver-partners are from neighborhoods with higher unemployment than the city as a whole, and the taxi industry’s own statistics note that more than 90% of for-hire drivers are immigrants. That’s 10,000 New Yorkers denied an opportunity to earn an income thanks to a proposal made by medallion-owning millionaires.
We agree strongly that one of the answers to congestion can be found in the for-hire industry, just not the answer these bills’ sponsors imagined. Congestion-relieving services like uberPOOL are only possible thanks to the many New Yorkers who earn their living as for-hire drivers. By increasing the average number of passengers per trip, shared rides make every for-hire vehicle more efficient, and reduce the need for single-occupancy vehicles to clog our streets. For-hire drivers and vehicles aren’t the problem, they are part of the solution. Tough issues deserve solutions and 10,000+ New York drivers deserve a chance to make a living.
We support any well-designed study that looks at congestion. And we’d love to partner together to consider solutions. But don’t artificially limit New Yorkers’ opportunities to ride and drive in the meantime.
Please tell the Mayor and bill sponsors to stand up for New Yorkers.