New York City may become the first major US city to limit ride-sharing services like Uber, with five bills in consideration by the city council that aim to stem traffic congestion and raise income for taxi drivers. A recent series of suicides by professional drivers facing financial hardships has sparked a renewed public outcry against the rapid growth of ride-hailing services, according to Reuters.
NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson said to reporters:
“We are pausing the issuance of new licenses in an industry that has been operating without checks.”
The council could vote on the matter as soon as August 8th.
The city represents Uber’s largest US market, but the supply of drivers has now overtaken demand, forcing driver wages down. In 2015, there were 63,000 for-hire vehicles operating in the city, rising to 100,000 now, according to the New York Times. Six professional drivers have committed suicide in the past six months. The move follows a failed 2015 attempt by Mayor Bill Di Blasio to limit ride-hailing services. And just like last time, the companies are fighting back.
An email from Uber, sent to nearly 5 million New Yorkers, warned that the change would hurt riders most of all, with higher fares, longer wait times, and reduced service to parts of the city far from the high-demand areas of Manhattan. The companies have portrayed the move as an attack on residents in these areas, and on minorities in particular. A growing social media campaign is opposing the measure, with a link in the email allowing readers to easily tweet in protest.
According to a spokesperson from Uber:
“The Council’s cap will hurt riders outside Manhattan who have come to rely on Uber because their communities have long been ignored by yellow taxis and do not have reliable access to public transit.”
A Lyft spokesperson also said:
“This would take New York back to an era of standing on the corner and hoping to get a ride.”
One measure in consideration would halt new for-hire vehicle licenses for a year, allowing the Taxi and Limousine commission time to investigate “utilization, congestion, driver income, and neighborhood service.” Another measure would create a separate licensing category for these services, with the option to limit licenses in some parts of the city and deny permits if demand cannot be demonstrated.
Proponents of the cap are joining a worldwide backlash against ride-hailing services. Honolulu’s city council has aimed to limit fare increases during surges in demand. Many EU nations have partially, or in a few cases completely, banned Uber over similar concerns. The service is also banned in much of Oregon.