New York City officials have taken the first step toward capping the number of vehicles driving for Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft. The new legislation is part of an aggressive move to address mounting concerns that their explosive growth has led to worsening congestion and battered driver wages.
The legislation being considered by City Council would make NYC the first major American city to set a limit on TNC vehicles, which in a relatively short period of time have transformed transportation systems in cities around the globe. Mayor Bill de Blasio, while stopping short of fully endorsing the proposal, suggested the time had come to rein in the industry.
The proposal supported by the City Council speaker, Corey Johnson, would halt the issuance of new For-hire Vehicle (FHV) licenses, except for vehicles that are wheelchair accessible, while the city conducts a year-long study of the industry.
It is the second attempt by NYC – Uber’s largest U.S. market – to cap the company’s vehicles. The first attempt failed when Mr. de Blasio attempted it in 2015. Since then, the number of FHVs in NYC has surged, rising to more than 100,000 vehicles, from about 63,000 in 2015, according to the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC).
Mr. de Blasio, Mr. Johnson and other elected officials have raised concerns about the decimation of the once-thriving taxi industry and the increasing gridlock on city streets. Questions over the impact of TNCs have also become more visceral: Six NYC TLC-regulated drivers have killed themselves in recent months.
New York’s strong stance toward TNCs comes at a time when other cities are grappling with how to respond to the challenges posed by their explosive growth. Last month, Uber won back its license to operate in London after agreeing to stricter regulations.
A series of proposals before the City Council would also move to set minimum pay rules for app drivers, which would make NYC the first major American city to establish a pay minimum for drivers. The City Council could vote on the measures as soon as Aug. 8.
Mr. Johnson, a Democrat who became City Council speaker in January, said it was clear something needed to be done to grapple with the disruption in the taxi and FHV industry.
Not surprisingly, Uber immediately blasted the proposal, arguing that it would hurt its customers, especially those who live in the boroughs outside Manhattan, where the growth of TNC services in neighborhoods ill-served by public transit helped them achieve a milestone and surpass yellow cabs in the number of daily riders.
Uber officials have signaled that they are open to discussing new regulations but have adamantly opposed a cap like the one proposed.
The City Council’s legislative package – which includes the cap – seeks to change the way TNCs operate, licensing companies that provide more than 10,000 daily trips as high-volume transportation services with separate regulations. Under the bills, city officials could also set standards for how often a vehicle must be occupied by a passenger, to reduce the time spent driving around the city while empty.
Mr. Johnson’s office said that it hoped the proposals would push companies to add more wheelchair-accessible vehicles, a longstanding industry issue.
Source: New York Times