Tonya Riley, Mother Jones:
On Wednesday, the New York City Council passed a landmark set of bills aimed directly at Uber and other ride-hailing services that will force the companies to pay drivers a minimum wage and sets a cap on how many cars can be on the road. New York City’s new regulations could set a precedent for other cities across the country that face increasingly congested roads and drivers frustrated with the depreciating value of their services.
The set of bills will give the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission the authority to instate minimum fare requirements, regulate minimum earnings for drivers, and institute a 12-month cap on additional licenses while the city evaluates the effects on companies, including Lyft, Uber, Juno, and Via, and on city congestion.
IDG, a union which represents over 65,000 app-based drivers, teamed up with the New York Taxi Worker Association on a multi-year campaign to get the bill in front of the council, starting with a petition two years ago.
At Wednesday’s vote, council members stressed that the measure was not designed to decrease availability of cars, but instead better maximize New York’s roads. One 2017 report found that app-hailed cars spend nearly as much time idling on New York City streets as carrying passengers. Capping the number of licenses, advocates say, will help better utilize existing fleets and stall decreased values of traditional medallion cabs.
The new laws give the Taxi and Limousine Commission the authority to grant new licenses at any time if there is demonstrated consumer demand.
Advocates for the new set of bills, led by Council Speaker Corey Johnson, cited the increasing suicide rates of New York city drivers feeling the economic crunch of the new driving economy. In February, livery driver Doug Schifter committed suicide outside of New York City Hall. In a Facebook post written before his death, Schifter cited the inaction of politicians in curbing the number of cars on the street, which stretched his work to 100 hours a week, as the reason for his death. Schifter’s death shed light on several other professional drivers who have committed suicide in the past 12 months.