New York : New York’s city council on Wednesday dealt a blow to Uber and other car-for-hire companies, passing a bill to cap the number of vehicles they operate and impose minimum pay standards on drivers. It makes New York the first major US city to limit the number of app-based rides and to impose pay rules, with authorities under pressure to act over pollution and worsening congestion.
The financial capital of 8.5 million is the biggest app-ride market in the United States, where public transport woes and astronomical parking costs have helped fuel years of untamed growth by the likes of Lyft and Uber. But that growth has brought New York’s iconic yellow cabs to their knees and since December, six yellow-cab drivers have committed suicide. Those deaths have been linked to desperation over plummeting income. The increased competition has slashed the value of yellow cab taxi licenses from more than $1 million in 2014 to less than $200,000 today. The bill stipulates a 12-month cap on all new for-hire-vehicle licenses, unless they are wheelchair accessible, as well as minimum pay requirements for app drivers -- regulated by the Taxi and Limousine Commission.
The TLC, which regulates taxis and is a powerful force in New York politics, commissioned a study recently in a bid to underscore the chaos and push city authorities into taking action. That report recommended a guaranteed income of $17.22 an hour for drivers -- the city’s $15 minimum wage is due to come into effect at the end of 2018 -- plus a supplement to mitigate against rest time. Uber hit back Wednesday, saying the 12-month pause would threaten one of the city’s “few reliable transportation options” -- a swipe at a burgeoning subway crisis -- “while doing nothing to fix the subways or ease congestion.” “Uber will do whatever it takes to keep up with growing demand and we will not stop working with city and state leaders... to pass real solutions like comprehensive congestion pricing,” a spokesperson said.