NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — New York City made history on Wednesday, becoming the first major city to pass legislation placing a cap on ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft.
The City Council approved a package of bills that included a one-year moratorium on new licenses for for-hire vehicles while the city studies the rapidly changing industry.
The Council also voted to set a minimum driver wage equivalent to the yellow cab wage for app-based drivers.
Backers of the proposals said both the traditional yellow cab industry and drivers for app-based services are suffering as Uber cars flood the city’s streets. They said the growth of ride-hailing apps has also worsened traffic congestion.
“There is absolutely no reason beyond corporate greed why there would not be a cap on the number of vehicles,” said Bhairavi Desai of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance.
“We think it’s a win-win for all New Yorkers. First, it deals with the congestion issue, which is terrible,” David Beier, president of the Community for Taxi Safety, said.
But companies like Uber and Lyft have been pushing back through commercials and social media. Other opponents of the regulations said the companies provide needed service to neighborhoods outside Manhattan that are poorly served by yellow cabs.
“We’d like a little more time to sit down and talk to the council about this because this whole process is moving so fast,” said Joseph Okpaku, vice president of public policy with Lyft.
Instead of a car cap, ride-sharing companies want comprehensive congestion pricing that applies to not just their cars, but also public transit and personal cars, which require state approval.
“The cap is not just a cap. Around 25 percent of vehicles cycle off a rideshare platform in a given year, so it seems pretty clear that there’s actually going to be a reduction in services as opposed to just keeping level at the current level,” Okpaku said.
Uber spokesman Josh Gold said a cap on new licenses would reverse the progress made extending service to neighborhoods poorly served by traditional taxis.
“The more Ubers, the more Lyfts, it’s better for the consumer,” said Uber rider Germain Kelly. “Should be less expensive because you have more rides to choose from. I think it’s going to hurt the consumer if this legislation were to pass.”
While City Council took the first steps to stop the ride hailing companies from growing too quickly, Speaker Corey Johnson took great pains to assure people they will not be losing service.
“The legislation has received a lot of attention these last few weeks and I want to clarify a few things,” Johnson told CBS2 on Wednesday. “Number, one we are not taking away any service that is currently being offered.”
He added the city isn’t “diminishing or decreasing the number of licenses on the road.”
Councilman Steve Levin was a sponsor of the bill that would impose the cap.
“In the past few years alone, the number of TLC licensed vehicles has almost doubled from 74,000 in 2014 to 130,000 today,” he said. “If we continue to let drivers struggle to pay their rent and we turn a blind eye to growing congestion, we are not doing our job as elected officials.”
On Tuesday, families of cab drivers who have taken their own lives held a rally saying the surge in ride-share cars has increased the financial burden yellow taxi drivers face.
“He make less, less money to pay the bills, so this is why he committed suicide,” one driver’s brother, Richard Chow, said.
A spokesperson for ride-hailing drivers told Kramer he also supports the bill.
“There’s way too many workers entering the industry right now. There’s 2,000 workers entering the industry and there’s just not enough work for everybody,” said Ryan Price, of the Independent Drivers Guild.
One thing most can agree on is congestion on New York City streets is a nightmare. It’s a reason many supported the bills.
“I’m going to vote for the cap, because our streets are congested and it’s impossible for a cab driver, livery driver to make a fulltime living,” Councilman Roy Lancman, of Queens, said.
For many drivers, the Council’s actions didn’t go far enough.
“Fundamentally these bills are just a small step in the right direction,” ride hailing driver Ben Fredericks said. “We need a raise in the income for all drivers, including yellow cab and livery drivers.”
Sponsors of the bill call the cap a pause, and say its impact will be evaluated through the year.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)