In major defeat for Uber and Lyft, New York City votes to limit ride-hailing cars

NYC becomes the first American city to restrict the explosive growth in ride-sharing cars.

The New York City Council voted on Wednesday in favor of a cap on the number of for-hire delivery and transportation vehicles on the city’s streets, striking a stunning blow to tech companies like Uber and Lyft.

The council voted to halt the issuance of new for-hire vehicle licenses for 12 months while it studies the booming industry. Under the cap, Uber and Lyft could still be granted licenses for wheelchair-accessible vehicles — which both companies sorely lack — but would be prevented from adding new ride-hail vehicles for one year.

The city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission could also issue licenses in particular neighborhoods that are running low on ride-hail vehicles. Another bill that passed would establish a $15 living wage for drivers.

The bills now go to the desk of Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has indicated his support for a cap.

Uber and Lyft have argued that the cap will lead to longer wait times and less reliable service in the city, especially in the outer boroughs. But according to city council speaker Corey Johnson, a Manhattan Democrat, New Yorkers won’t notice a difference in their day-to-day travel — aside from perhaps an extra 12 to 15 seconds taken when they order a car.

“I think New Yorkers can rest assured,” Johnson said. “If they depend on an Uber or a Lyft — that’s not going anywhere.”

Council Member Ruben Diaz Sr, a cowboy-hat sporting Democrat from the Bronx, characterized the legislation as an attempt to level the playing field. “Uber has about 80,000 vehicles in the city already, and no regulation — you think Uber is a taxi? We don’t even know what Uber is.”

He added, “Now, we want to regulate Uber, and Uber will be a taxi.”

New York is the first US city to propose a temporary freeze on the total number of ride-hail vehicles. The city is also one of the biggest money-makers for these same services. Growing numbers of residents are turning to ride-hail services to supplement — or sometimes replace — the city’s faltering public transportation system. Right now, there are more than 100,000 for-hire vehicles in New York, outnumbering yellow taxis four to one. Johnson argues that these vehicles help to worsen traffic congestion, citing a report that found that more than a third of them were empty at any given time.

The unchecked growth of these vehicles has seriously cut into the value of the city’s taxi medallions, the metal plate that is required to pick up street hails. In response to the booming growth in Uber and Lyft, taxi drivers have staged protests and lobbied elected officials for relief.

Via: The Verge

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