Photo Credit- Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times
From New York Times:
After coming under attack last summer from the ride-hailing app Uber, the de Blasio administration shelved a proposal to cap the number of Uber vehicles and undertook a study of the service’s effect on New York City traffic.
The study was due by the end of November. But over six weeks after the deadline, the findings have yet to be made public.
The city has been silent about the delay except to say that the administration will eventually propose recommendations for the for-hire vehicle industry.
As the weeks passed, it became increasingly clear that the city was wrestling with how to frame the study’s findings and respond to Uber’s aggressive and sometimes defiant efforts to expand in New York.
In proposing the cap, the city said the influx of thousands of Uber vehicles had added to traffic congestion in Manhattan, an assertion the company contested.
At a breakfast event in Manhattan on Thursday, Meera Joshi, chairwoman of the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission, referred questions about the study to City Hall. Ms. Joshi said she believed the study would be released “very soon.”
The city led the study, she said, but the taxi commission provided information and some analysis. Asked by a reporter whether the city might try again to cap Uber, Ms. Joshi said that would depend on the study’s findings regarding congestion.
“I think the city will be very, very dictated by what they find based on the traffic portion of the study that they’re doing,” she said.
The study could be released as early as Friday, but it could be delayed yet again. The City Council has been working on legislation to regulate for-hire vehicles, including services like Uber and Lyft.
Wiley Norvell, a spokesman for Mayor Bill de Blasio, said in a statement that the city planned to put forward a “framework that addresses vital priorities, including expanding accessibility for the disabled and securing support for public transit.” Last summer, Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, called on Uber and other companies to offer wheelchair-accessible vehicles and to contribute funding for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, as yellow taxis do through a 50-cent surcharge.
The traffic study cost about $2 million and was being led by the mayor’s Office of Operations with assistance from the consulting firm McKinsey & Company and from Bruce Schaller, a former transportation official who served mainly during the Bloomberg administration, city officials said. As part of the study, Uber gave the city more data than it had previously provided, including the general locations where rides started and ended.
New York City’s dispute with Uber over a cap drew national attention, driven by the company’s public relations offensive, but other states and cities have struggled with how to regulate the company. On Thursday, the California Public Utilities Commission fined Uber $7.6 million for failing to report driver data. Workers have increasingly raised concerns over whether they should be considered employees instead of contractors, and Seattle voted in December to allow Uber and Lyft drivers to form unions.
While the mayor’s office continues to work on its study, some City Council members have been drafting legislation on regulations for the for-hire industry, although they have not yet reached a final decision on the bills, City Council officials said. A cap on Uber vehicles is no longer part of the discussions, the officials said, but the Council is still considering whether to address surge pricing, a feature in the Uber app that charges higher fares during busy periods.
Paul Steely White, the executive director of Transportation Alternatives, a nonprofit advocacy group for pedestrians and cyclists, said the City Council should wait to move forward on the legislation until the study is released.
“It would be unwise to rush to some regulatory conclusion absent the study and some in-depth conversation and debate about it,” he said.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, has said that he wants to create a statewide licensing system for services like Uber and Lyft, but he did not mention the companies during his State of the State speech this week. On Tuesday, two Democratic state senators introduced a bill aiming to divert some of the sales tax revenue generated from Uber and Lyft trips to benefit mass transit.
Yellow taxi riders pay the surcharge to the transportation authority, but Uber riders do not pay the same fee, though they do pay sales tax. In November, the authority said it was losing about $10 million a year because of declining revenue from yellow taxis in light of Uber’s popularity.
Matthew W. Daus, a former New York City taxi commissioner, said he expected the city would ultimately move to level the playing field for yellow taxis, which face more stringent regulations.
“The big question is: How far will they go toward leveling the playing field?” he said.
Read more at The New York Times…