As the city’s for-hire vehicles (FHVs) rack up nearly 800,000 rides per day, Mayor Bill De Blasio announced on Wednesday the Taxi and Limousine Commission’s new plan to extend last year’s cap on for-hire vehicle licenses, the New York Post reports. A second cap will be placed on the length of time FHVs can let their cars cruise the city without passengers in the most congested part of Manhattan, below 96th Street. Last August, the city also suspended the issuance of new licenses. The new policies are expected to increase driver salaries by about 20 percent and make traffic in Manhattan below 60th Street six to 10 percent faster.
Photo via Wikimedia
The new policies extend the city’s unprecedented measures to protect drivers employed by companies like Lyft and Uber and keep congestion from worsening. Before the new limit on licenses, the number of for-hire vehicles on the city’s streets saw its numbers grow by 1,700 new cars per month between May 2016 and July 2018. The state passed the nation’s first congestion pricing regulations in the Manhattan Central Business District to address the ensuing congestion, and the city passed new minimum wage requirements for app-based car service drivers. Limits on cruising time are intended to keep the drivers out of of the highly congested area, where they make up 29 percent of rush hour traffic.
De Blasio told reporters, “There’s more and more cars driving with no one in them but the driver and clogging up the streets and driving down the wages so everyone was losing except those corporate titans. We are not here to serve the corporate titans, we are here to serve the people.”
The for-hire companies–like Lyft, Uber and Via–will be hit with $350 fine for every 100 hours they exceed the new limit, which will be in effect on weekdays between 6 A.M. (8 A.M. on weekends) and 11 P.M. Repeated violations could mean suspended or revoked licenses. Wheelchair-accessible vehicles and fully electric cars will be exempt.
The new rules face a hearing with the Taxi and Limousine Commission this summer; final approval is scheduled for August. The new regulations will the be rolled out over a six-month period; cruising time will be capped at 36 percent in February 2020 and 31 percent six months later.
Though the new restrictions are being hailed as a victory for workers, the companies that hire them aren’t happy. Uber say the cap has made drivers put up more money to rent vehicles before the rules go into effect after August, and that the industry loses 1,000 cars per month. Uber sued the city after the first vehicle limit and is expected to do so again over the new rules,
Uber representative Alix Anfang said, “The Mayor’s cap will create another medallion system — the same kind that bankrupted drivers and enriched lenders. Not only is the Mayor’s policy hurting app drivers by forcing them to pay exorbitant fees to rent a car, but he has proposed nothing to fix the current medallion system that only benefits lenders and taxi insiders.”
The city holds that this not, in fact the case. Deputy Mayor Laura Anglin said, “For-hire vehicle licenses, unlike medallions, are not transferable. There’s no secondary market for lenders to exploit them. They’re trying to scare drivers and it’s just not true. It’s unfortunate, but I don’t expect anything more from [Uber].” Anglin said the city will raise the minimum wage standard for the industry, currently $17.22, if it finds that drivers are getting hit with high rental fees.
Acting Taxi and Limousine Commission Chair Bill Heinzen said, “New York City is such an important market for them. It’s not like other places where they can take their cars and go home.”
Taxi Workers Alliance leader Bhairavi Desai said, “The cap is something that unites drivers across this industry. No driver wins when the streets are flooded. Uber and Lyft drivers end up with less trips, and drivers in the other sectors are drowned out on the streets. It’s a good start to make sure that Uber and Lyft drivers aren’t just circling around empty while yellow cab drivers are stuck in a [traffic] chokehold.”
The de Blasio Administration also announced new measures to help yellow cab drivers. The city is waiving medallion fees so that medallion owners no longer have to pay $1,100 every two years to renew their medallions and creating a new driver assistance center with an on-site staff to connect drivers to relevant services like advocacy, financial counseling and debt restructuring assistance, referrals to health services and screening for HRA benefits.
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