Bill De Blasio Wants To Cap Number of Ubers In NYC

by Tonya Riley

On Saturday, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio took another swing at Uber, this time in a New York Daily News op-ed. The column is just the most recent shade thrown in the developing feud between the ride-sharing company and de Blasio, pointing to a number of problems with the company's rapid expansion such as street congestion in Manhattan and the threat it poses to the business of yellow cab drivers. In the op-ed, de Blasio wrote:

When you consider what's at stake — from ensuring workers can make a decent living, to managing the surge of more than 2,000 new cars on our streets every month, to protecting consumers from overcharges, to making sure we have more accessible vehicles for New Yorkers with disabilities — it's our responsibility to act.

De Blasio also cited the company's lack of compliance with city initiatives to increase service accessibility for riders with disabilities and failure to contribute financially to public transit, like the fee required of taxis does. The ride-sharing company recently lost a motion to dismiss a lawsuit contesting the company's claims that it provides a safer service than cabs.

But New York and London, which is considering a similar ban, aren't the only places that have found the booming company a challenge to regulate. Uber is currently facing a potential class-action lawsuit in the state of California by drivers who want the company to give them benefits as full-time employees. California also fined Uber $7.3 million for withholding information about the number of accessible vehicle requests it receives, information the company is legally obligated to report to the state. Recently, New York Working Families Party, New York Communities for Change, and other progressive organizations also came out against Uber for what it claimed were exploitative practices through its contract policies.

However, not everyone agrees with City Hall's panic over the service. The New York Times editorial board wrote a column Saturday suggesting that traffic congestion is getting worse because New York's economy is growing, not because of Uber. According to the New York Post, the number of private cars has increased 66 percent in the past four years, with 2,000 new licenses being granted each month. Instead of a full-scale assault, the Times suggested raising surcharges on all driving services in peak areas.

Of course, Uber isn't taking the criticism laying down. Uber recently launched a petition to protest the city council legislation that would cap the number of cars operating in the city. The company claimed the legislation would cause wait times for rides to "double or even triple" and drivers would lose income. Furthermore, the petition claimed "more than 10,000 New Yorkers would lose job opportunities overnight" if the bill passes. When asked to explain by Bustle how Uber reached its estimate, a representative for the company was unable to comment.

Uber on Thursday also launched a modification to its app that shows users what Uber's "de Blasio mode" would look like if the bill passes. Uber may not be down for New York's regulations, but the company is more than happy to bring its lobbying into your mobile experience.

But Uber isn't the only one allegedly playing dirty. The Post recently reported that anonymous sources alleged de Blasio has been bullying business leaders to stay out of the fray. And, according to the Post, the mayor received just over half a million dollars in donations from the yellow cab industry for his 2013 campaign.

Whether or not Uber is the problem, New York City's transportation has major issues. New York's transit authority is struggling to pay for already planned services improvements. The city is also trying to reduce its carbon footprint, and despite de Blasio's allegations, it isn't entirely clear if Uber helps or harms the environment. The City Council is set to vote on the controversial Uber bill as early as this week. In the meantime, New Yorkers will have to hope that the surge in tensions between Uber and de Blasio doesn't result in a surge in fares.

Image: New York City Department of Transportation/Flickr