The New York City mayor, Bill de Blasio, recently implemented a “cap” on Ubers and Lyfts throughout the city. That is, for the next year, there will be a maximum amount of Ubers and Lyfts on the road. De Blasio wants this cap to “study the industry.” For the duration of the cap, new drivers will not be hired; that is, if someone leaves their position, no one will take their place. However, many commuters and innovators alike are upset with this new cap. Prior, NYC (like other U.S. cities and those throughout the world) allow as many Uber and Lyft drivers as desired. This new cap results in more individuals using taxis and the subway in addition to a creating possible inequity in transportation accessibility.
Ride-share apps (such as Uber and Lyft) are popular because they are accessible, easy-to-use, pay online, “colorblind” (drivers do not know the race of their passengers until the pick-up), and go to neighborhoods that are outside of main cities. Fewer taxis enter the different boroughs of New York; many stay in the city. The other boroughs, such as Brooklyn and the Bronx, have a higher concentration of people of color. While Manhattan is made up of 18% of individuals who identify as the Bronx, 34% of Brooklyn and 44% of the Bronx are black. Although these boroughs have less traffic, data from “FiveThirtyEight” measured the data of taxis and Ubers in these boroughs. While 4.4 million Ubers were measured to pick up riders in the Bronx and Queens, only 14% (of the 88.4 million) of taxis on the roads entered these areas. Without as many Ubers and Lyfts on the roads, people in these areas are potentially placed at a disadvantage in their commutes. In recent years, there has been a rise in ride-share apps which has consequently reduced the number of taxis being utilized on the streets of NYC. Also, many Uber and Lyft drivers themselves are immigrants and/or people of color, so this cap has the potential to hurt their employment opportunities as well.
Additionally, this cap seems to have political motives. The taxi industry, a highly political and selective one at that, supported De Blasio’s mayoral campaign with hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations. With this money, de Blasio pledged to “improve the lives of poor and everyday New Yorkers.” However, some are questioning this notion. Jared Meyer is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Government Accountability. He questions ‘who is being protected by this regulation – the public or special interests?’ His book, “Uber-Positive: Why Americans Love the Sharing Economy” believes that “de Blasio’s misguided attacks on ridesharing threaten the growth of a system that has achieved what yellow taxis were never able to do – expanding transportation options for low-income outer-borough New Yorkers.” Supporting this perspective, Al Sharpton opposes the cap as well, saying that since apps are used to find drivers, it is more difficult for drivers to discriminate against their passengers.
Some see benefits to the ban such as less congestion in the city and a higher utilization of taxis. This is also good news for taxi drivers who may be more in-demand with this cap. Also, if it really is only for one year, data could be gathered and measured which could fuel future legislation.