Following a series of rallies by the New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA) and Uber and Lyft drivers, and the suicides of six taxi workers attributed to a decrease in ridership due to an increase in for-hire vehicles (FHV), the City Council passed a bill for a one-year cap on new vehicles, except for wheelchair-accessible cars.
“We introduced Intro. 1078, in relation to creating an office of inclusion within the @nyctaxi,” Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) tweeted following the ruling. “As we move to provide a lifeline to taxi drivers we must also address ride refusals. Thank you @NYCSpeakerCoJo for acknowledging and addressing both issues today.”
The bill to cap ride-sharing vehicles in New York City would limit the number of vehicles—which has increased from 63,000 to 100,000 since 2015.
“Our city is directly confronting a crisis that is driving working New Yorkers into poverty and our streets into gridlock,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “The unchecked growth of app-based for-hire vehicle companies has demanded action—and now we have it. And this action will stop the influx of cars contributing to the congestion grinding our streets to a halt.”
According to the Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC), fewer than 14,000 yellow cabs operate in the city.
“Thousands of NYTWA members have marched and rallied, have stood together in the blazing sun, in rainstorms, joining us after sleepless nights and days behind the wheel,” said NYTWA Executive Director Bhairavi Desai. “Our activism created the momentum to regulate app-dispatch companies for the very first time. What happened today didn’t just set a precedent for New York City; it set a precedent for the entire world as app companies like Uber and Lyft use technological innovation to return us to a time of sweated labor, destroying lives and livelihoods across the planet.”
When it was first announced that there would be a cap on FHVs, a number of politicians from Queens and Brooklyn, as well as residents of those communities, shared concerns that yellow cabs would once again only target high-income communities, leaving low-income residents lacking in that area.
Many supported Uber/Lyft because unlike yellow cabs and other professional car services operated by the TLC, the car services’ drivers did not discriminate against low-income communities.
“These sweeping cuts to transportation will bring New Yorkers back to an era of struggling to get a ride, particularly for communities of color and in the outer boroughs,” said Lyft vice president of public policy Joseph Okpaku. “We will never stop working to ensure New Yorkers have access to reliable and affordable transportation in every borough.”
In the event that certain geographic areas are in need of vehicles, the TLC will issue licenses, as long as there isn’t a substantial effect on congestion.
During the hearing, Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan) shared the stories of Abdul Saleh, Yu Mein Kenny Chow, Nican Ochisor, Danilo Corporan Castillo, Alfredo Perez and Douglas Schifter, all of whom committed suicide this year due to Uber and Lyft’s takeover, which resulted in financial strain on the drivers.
Earlier this week, the NYTWA and Uber, Lyft, Taxi, Black Car and Green Cab drivers rallied in Long Island City at the Uber and Lyft headquarters and at City Hall to support the FHV cap and prevent the city’s professional drivers from facing the prospect of poverty.
“Today, a workforce of over 100,000 men and women, a workforce of immigrants and people of color, finally have a reason to hope for an end to this crisis,” said Desai. “Today, we took the first step. Tomorrow, we will continue to fight.”
Reach Ariel Hernandez at (718) 357-7400 x 144, firstname.lastname@example.org or @reporter_ariel.