Ride-hailing company Uber filed a lawsuit against New York City on Feb. 15 to dispute the city’s recent cap on the number of new drivers allowed on the roads. The law at the center of this legal dispute was the first of its kind in the country and paused the issuance of new licenses to drivers for 12 months.
Despite the time limit included in the legislation, Uber fears that the New York City Council will ultimately make the cap permanent. According to the lawsuit, Uber is arguing that the one-year freeze on licenses for ride-hailing vehicles is anticompetitive by nature and exceeds the city’s authority.
About 94% of people say that web design is the reason they have mistrusted a website or rejected its services. With their streamlined designs, user-friendly interfaces, and convenient service, ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft typically don’t have that issue and are wildly popular among riders. For the policymakers of large metropolitan areas, however, they have proven to be the source of many headaches.
Before the popularity of these apps grew, the streets of New York were already overcrowded and prone to traffic jams. In 2016, about 15% of all cars sold in the U.S. were pickup trucks. This number of large vehicles creates issues in a tightly-packed city like New York, especially when combined with the number of buses and yellow taxis that transport the city’s many tourists and car-less residents.
With drivers from the apps now in the mix, the problem has only worsened. When the New York City Council passed the cap in August 2018, they also approved a standard of minimum pay for drivers in order to reduce the amount of time empty cars spend on the road.
Just this past January, the city has started to charge a congestion fee of $2.75 on each app-hailed trip that passes through Manhattan’s business district with the heaviest traffic. New York governor Andrew Cuomo is currently pushing for legislation that would enforce tolls for all drivers entering midtown and downtown Manhattan.
In the meantime, the city is focusing its efforts on ride-hailing apps that have been able to exist in the gray areas of labor and taxi regulations at the state and city level. Uber, Lyft, and similar companies have argued that they are technology platforms rather than taxi companies, allowing them to slip through the stricter regulations that apply to most car services. In New York City, this leniency is coming to an end as the city begins to categorize ride-hail vehicles in its preexisting for-hire vehicle category.
The city isn’t enacting these regulations only in the interest of clearing out Manhattan’s streets. While car accidents in the U.S. injure over three million people every year, its companies like Uber that are posing a threat to the lives of New York City’s taxi drivers.
According to a statement to CNBC from the New York Taxi Workers Alliances, eight drivers have died by suicide because of the economic crisis Uber has created for the city’s taxi drivers.
As other cities across the country look for ways to control the number of ride-hail vehicles on their streets and more tech companies look for ways to make their presence known in major urban areas, all eyes will be on the ongoing drama between Uber and New York City.