The Uber types have blossomed like weeds and have upset things….
New York City this week is tapping the brakes on app-hail vehicles that, at a rate of 2,000 to 3,000 a month, have joined what were already pretty crowded streets. The 80,000 Uber, Lyft, Via and other cars that have fairly suddenly showed up, dwarfing the 13,000 yellow taxis, have been a godsend for New Yorkers who live in parts of the city underserved or unserved by public transit, and typically ignored by street-hail cabs that for generations ruled the roads.
But with the indisputable good has come some undeniable bad: Many cars are cruising empty. Drivers, both of yellow cabs and app-hail cars, are increasingly unable to make ends meet as they claw for customers. Yellow medallion values have plummeted, leaving too many taxi owner-operators holding the bag on huge loans, while overextended immigrants working for Uber and shouldering all the costs themselves have found it tougher and tougher to hack it. Street congestion, especially in Manhattan, is ever-hotter hell.
So a package of bills that passed the City Council will pause the growth — unless the companies want to add wheelchair-accessible vehicles (their fleets as currently comprised have virtually none) — for up to a year, while the city tries to figure out what to do. Ultimately, the regulators might impose a hard overall cap, or a cap on app-hail cars in parts of the city, with limitations lifted elsewhere.
The howls have come: Mayor de Blasio and his progressive Council allies are dangerously overreaching, and screwing the very people they claim to care about. They’re just doing the bidding of the yellow cab millionaires. The market can and should figure all this out.
Actually, there’s a balance to be struck here, and nobody should go to the barricades arguing that in a dense city of bridges, where public roads are a precious resource, no number of Ubers and Lyfts could possibly be too large….