To paraphrase the late Muhammad Ali: the cap is here.
This week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law five bills that he said would bring “fairness” to the for-hire vehicle and taxi industry in the city. It’s the first legislation in the United States that regulates the for-hire vehicle industry.
Intro. 144-B put a 12-month cap on for-hire vehicles with an exception made for those that are wheelchair accessible. The bill includes a mandated study of congestion in the industry. Intro. 634-B waives license fees for wheelchair accessible for-hire vehicles. Intro. 838-C creates a new class of license for high volume for-hire transportation services that make more than 10,000 trips a day. Intro 958-A lowers a previous increase in penalties for unauthorized street hails. Intro. 890-B directs the Taxi and Limousine Commission to provide minimum payments for drivers who work for services licensed to take more than 10,000 trips a day.
“Now, here’s what we could see even three years ago,” said de Blasio at a news conference at City Hall after signing the bill. “We could see that app-based cars were flooding this city and it became increasingly clear this was part of a very cynical plan to oversaturate this city, to oversaturate this market on purpose because of corporate greed.”
De Blasio continued, “And a number of us said, watch what’s happening here and look where it’s going to take us, and I’m sad to say it’s taken us some place we could not have imagined—40 percent of those for-hire vehicles drive our streets empty. No one wins in that equation; only a few big corporate titans win. But everyday people don’t win. New Yorkers don’t win. Drivers don’t win. Customers don’t win. No one else wins.”
32BJ President Hector Figueroa said the legislation would stop a “race to the bottom” that has led six drivers to commit suicide in the past year and caused poverty for working class families.
“The for-hire vehicle cap will give drivers, mostly people of color, and their families a fighting chance to survive in our city while simultaneously decreasing congestion for everyone,” said Figueroa in a statement. “It is also encouraging to see that, in the same day, Mayor de Blasio took steps to curb the racial profiling that is prevalent in this industry with a new Office of Inclusion that will offer the much needed anti-discrimination training that NYC drivers have fought for years to win.”
De Blasio believes that his legislation puts New Yorkers ahead of major corporations. Those who backed the bill said app-based services and the traditional yellow cab industry have both suffered and the ensuing battle has worsened traffic in the five boroughs.
Independent Drivers Guild founder Jim Conigliaro Jr. said in a statement, “Truth is, throughout my time, the City Council and the TLC turned their backs on the black car industry, profiting from its labor while drivers struggled to survive. But this Council, this mayor and this TLC are changing things.” The IDG is a labor organization for Uber, Lyft, Via and Juno drivers.
The law went into effect at 5 p.m. this Tuesday, which led to thousands of car owners rushing to Uber and Lyft’s offices to register their vehicles before the deadline.
As for the congestion issue, those who specialize in transportation, traffic and planning aren’t too sure about the legislation leading to less traffic in the streets. Dani Simons, a representative for the nonprofit Regional Plan Association, said that caps on for-hire vehicles reducing congestion is a bit far-fetched.
“This cap will have only a minor effect on congestion, given that FHVs account for only 6 percent of the vehicle miles traveled in our city,” said Simons. “We’re eager for our State Legislature to take action on the other 94 percent by enabling congestion pricing which would discourage unnecessary driving and simultaneously provide a stream of revenue to improve transit, making alternatives to driving better and more accessible for New Yorkers.”
Nick Sifuentes, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, agreed, saying it’s a cosmetic fix to a bigger problem.
“I do not expect the recently passed for-hire vehicle cap by the Council will have any meaningful impact on congestion, because the cap won’t get at the root of the problem,” Sifuentes said. “We need to fix public transit so commuters see subways and buses as the best options for getting around, and the only way we’re going to do that is by funding public transit fixes, not by taking options away from people.”
Sifuentes also suggested that the mayor take up another means of helping commuters and fixing the subway.
“The best way to fund public transit will also help congestion, and that’s congestion pricing for all cars traveling below 60th Street in Manhattan,” he said.