New York City, the largest American market for Uber, has become the first U.S. city to regulate the growth of app-based rides.
A ONE-YEAR FREEZE
Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday signed a bill placing a temporary cap on new licenses for a year, with the exception of wheelchair-accessible vehicles.
The City Council approved a package of bills that included the moratorium while the city studies the rapidly changing industry. The legislation also will allow the city to set a minimum wage for app-based drivers.
"We are taking immediate action for the benefit of more than 100,000 hard-working New Yorkers who deserve a fair wage, and halting the flood of new cars grinding our streets to a halt," de Blasio said.
Backers of the proposals said both the traditional yellow cab industry and drivers for app-based services are suffering as for-hire cars flood the city's streets. They said the growth of ride-hailing apps has also worsened traffic congestion.
"Today, New York City is hitting pause on the economic hemorrhaging that has left tens of thousands of immigrant families in chaos and despair," the New York Taxi Workers Alliance said in a statement Tuesday.
"Driver incomes across all sectors have been in a downward spiral as Uber and Lyft flooded our streets," the advocacy group said. "The immediate cap on new for-hire vehicles puts a stop to that. Now, yellow taxi, green cab, black car, livery, Uber and Lyft drivers can finally hope for stability."
Opponents of the legislation say Uber and Lyft provide much-needed service to areas outside of Manhattan that are underserved by traditional taxis. They also said black and Hispanic New Yorkers need ride-hailing apps because taxi drivers often won't stop for them.
"They're talking about putting a cap on Uber, do you know how difficult it is for black people to get a yellow cab in New York City?" The Rev. Al Sharpton previously tweeted.
A RUSH FOR THE LAST LICENSE APPLICATIONS
On Tuesday morning, the line outside Uber offices in Queens stretched down the block and around the corner.
The clock was ticking: Prospective new drivers only had a few hours left.
"I got here at 3:30," one driver said. "3:30 in the morning."
"I am here since last night, midnight. I haven't slept," another said.
The website for the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) spelled it out clearly: The new cap on for-hire vehicle licenses would begin 5 p.m. Tuesday.
"We are like victims," a driver said.
The stated aim of the legislation was so New York City could study whether the exploding number of cars was contributing to congestion.
It was a direct message to the industry's major companies, like Uber and Lyft.
"Shame on Uber" was a chant in the City Hall Rotunda on Tuesday.
"It's time for the big corporations to take a back seat," the mayor said at a press conference with supporters of the legislation. "And for working people to take the wheel."
The bill takes effect immediately. So this week, drivers were trying to beat the clock.
Typically, in the past year, the Taxi and Limousine Commission would accept about 91 ride-hailing vehicle licenses a day.
On Monday, the commission accepted 2,082 applications.
"People rushing to get licenses — it's not surprising," City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said. "We want to ensure there is a utilization rate so cars aren't sitting empty 40 percent of the time. And we will do that regardless of how many licenses are on the road."
The City Council had just passed the legislation last week, and Tuesday was the earliest the mayor could sign the bill.
NY1 was told the city sped up the bill signing so to prevent more drivers rushing to register their vehicles.