On Wednesday, the New York City Council voted 36-6 to effectively cap the rapid-fire growth of ride-hailing services like Uber, Lyft, and Via and by nudging their fleets of black cars off the road and forcing companies to pay drivers a living wage. The bill puts a one-year cap on new licenses for Uber, Lyft and other ride-sharing companies.
Taxi drivers demonstrated in support of the bill outside the headquarters of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) this week, holding signs with the names and faces of six taxi drivers who had taken their lives since December.
Under the cap, drivers will be required to be paid a minimum wage and ride-hailing companies will be granted licenses for wheelchair-accessible vehicles.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Corey Johnson, the City Council speaker, say the bill will help cut down on the amount of congestion on the streets of NY.
He said many ride sharing drivers did not fully understand the costs of their job. And this action will stop the influx of cars contributing to the congestion grinding our streets to a halt.
Anti-discrimination proponents have backed vehicles dispatched by app as providing a way for people of color to obtain a ride reliably, rather than be illegally ignored by street-hailed cabs, and offering far better access to get picked up or dropped off outside of limited core areas of the city. 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 guild says nine in 10 of its members drive for ride-hailing companies as their primary source of income, underscoring the need for a minimum wage.
The TLC, which regulates taxis and is a powerful force in NY politics, commissioned a study recently in a bid to underscore the chaos and push city authorities into taking action.
"New York City is the first city in the country enact drivers' demands into legislation", it said on its website.
In emails to almost 5 million New Yorkers last month, Uber said riders would face higher prices, longer wait times and less service in the city's outer suburbs by drivers.
The one-year cap - which won't apply to wheelchair accessible vehicles or in certain underserved areas deemed not to be affected by congestion - is meant to make way for a study on longer term regulations and standards for the industry.
Last month Uber's CEO and Lyft's president both addressed the traffic congestion complaints at a technology conference in Aspen, Colorado.
But Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo, a Democrat, said Uber will still be available despite the moratorium on new cars. It has also pledged to make half of its trips carpools, with multiple passengers by 2020.