New York City Passes Legislation Restricting Growth Of Ride-Hailing Apps

Aug 8, 2018
Originally published on August 10, 2018 2:14 am
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

New York just became the first American city to pass legislation that restricts the growth of ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft. The city council passed five bills cracking down on the industry, and there were cheers from taxi drivers outside of city hall in Lower Manhattan today once the bills passed.

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SHAPIRO: Joining us to discuss these bills is reporter Stephen Nessen from member station WNYC in New York. Hi, Stephen.

STEPHEN NESSEN, BYLINE: Hello.

SHAPIRO: How does this legislation stop the growth of these ride-hailing apps?

NESSEN: The bill that everyone's talking about would stop the city from issuing new licenses for app-based drivers for a year. That's the license from the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission which allows them to pick up fares on city streets. These apps are wildly popular - too popular, maybe. Several studies have recently come out that connect the increasing congestion in Midtown Manhattan with the rise of ride-hailing apps. So that's one reason. Another is the yellow cab industry is up in arms about the ride-hailing apps.

SHAPIRO: Yeah, taxi drivers have been protesting all over the world against Uber and Lyft. What's the impact been on New York City taxi drivers?

NESSEN: Well, some medallion owners who - you need a medallion to drive a taxi. Some of them are millionaires, but some are just immigrants who've pooled their resources to invest in this job. There have been six driver suicides this year, and many of them cite economic hardship and competition from Uber. That's making it harder for them to make as much money as they used to.

SHAPIRO: This is not the first time New York City has tried to restrict these apps. Why did the measure pass this time?

NESSEN: Right. In 2015, Mayor Bill de Blasio did try to restrict the number of Uber cars, and Uber came out with a ferocious PR campaign. They enlisted celebrities to tweet against the bills. They even put a feature on their app called de Blasio mode that would make most of the cars on their app disappear to show what would happen if the bills passed. But this time the bill came out of the city council. Let's hear from city council speaker Corey Johnson.

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COREY JOHNSON: These package of bills is not punitive. This package of bills is thoughtful. It's careful. It's deliberative. And we have spent months working with all stakeholders involved to ensure that what we're doing is responsible and takes into consideration concerns from everyone in the entire industry.

SHAPIRO: What has the response been from companies like Uber and Lyft?

NESSEN: Despite the outreach, they're not happy. Their argument is that people in the outer boroughs, those that aren't well-served by public transit, will be the ones that are most affected by this. Speaker Johnson counters that by saying if the city sees there's a particular area that is being hurt, not getting the cars they need, they'll adjust their cap and allow more Uber and Lyft cars to drive in that area. These companies argue this bill won't solve the congestion problem either. They say it's caused by other factors like construction, truck traffic and increasing numbers of tourists.

SHAPIRO: As we mentioned, there were five bills passed today. What did the rest of them do?

NESSEN: Well, another one that is very interesting to a lot of people, very exciting to a lot of drivers is a minimum wage. They want to increase the rate to about $17 an hour. And the city council argues that would add about $5,000 a year to drivers' pockets. The industry, on the other hand, counters that they're not going to see an increase because there's just going to be more people fighting for more rides, and it's just not going to work out the way the council believes it will.

SHAPIRO: That's Stephen Nessen from member station WNYC speaking with us from New York. Thanks, Stephen.

NESSEN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.