New York has become the first city to pass strict new regulations limiting the number of new drivers that can sign up to drive for ride hailing companies like Uber and Lyft.
The legislation which was passed by the New York City Council by a vote of 39 to 6, restricts the number of ride-hailing vehicles for a year, allowing the city to study the growing industry. The law also allows the city to set a minimum wage for drivers – the first law of its kind.
The law, which Uber and Lyft opposed, pit the tech companies against traditional yellow cab drivers. Yesterday, a large number of cabbies protested outside City Hall before the vote. They were showing support for the law and also paying respects to six cab drivers who took their own lives recently – a result of the financial upheaval companies like Uber have caused among yellow cab drivers.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, who spearheaded the movement, praised the vote. “More than 100,000 workers and their families will see an immediate benefit from this legislation. And this action will stop the influx of cars contributing to the congestion grinding our streets to a halt,” he said. Uber criticized the move however and warned the legislation could create longer wait times as well as higher prices for customers.
Ride-hailing companies have become an important part of the transportation landscape in the nation’s largest and most congested city, with many New Yorkers looking to them as alternatives to increasingly unreliable public transportation.
Dependency on ride-hailing companies has also grown in neighborhoods outside of Manhattan where public transportation is less readily available.
“The City’s 12-month pause on new vehicle licenses will threaten one of the few reliable transportation options while doing nothing to fix the subways or ease congestion,” a statement released by Uber read.
Many Uber drivers allied themselves with yellow cab drivers in support for the cap however. They hope it scales back the number of new competitor vehicles hitting the road, affording them the opportunity for more passengers and higher pay.
Uber’s financial fortunes have grown exponentially in recent years. The company is now valued at $62 billion and it is considering an IPO next year.
That explosive growth has brought the upstart company into conflict with many city governments around the country and around the globe. Uber left Austin, Texas, in 2016 after the City Council there passed a law requiring it to perform fingerprint background checks on drivers. Uber would eventually return to the city.
In Seattle, the City Council passed a bill allowing Uber drivers to form unions. Uber is suing the city over the measure. And in London, England, Uber recently had its license reinstated after it agreed to stricter regulations and to providing that city’s government with traffic data it collects but has resisted sharing.
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