In 2015, Mayor Bill de Blasio entered a battle with Uber that he would ultimately lose. That summer, he and a key collection of City Council members sponsored a proposed measure that would freeze the company’s growth in the city until an impact study could be completed.
“More than 2,000 new for-hire vehicles are being added to our streets every month, overwhelming the most congested parts of Manhattan,” De Blasio wrote in a New York Daily News op-ed. “For perspective, that means we're facing the addition of over 25,000 cars to our streets over the next year—the rough equivalent of two times the total number of yellow taxis in all of New York City.”
Uber responded by launching a full-blown campaign to discredit the mayor, calling for New Yorkers to contact their representatives and voice dissent toward a cap on the company. The City Council eventually dropped the freeze. By the end of 2016, there were more than 50,000 ride-sharing vehicles operating within the city.
Three years later, the City Council is poised to take another swing at ride-sharing giants. Crain’s New York reports that legislation proposed in a For-Hire Vehicle Committee meeting earlier this week would impose regulations on the services, including an annual $2,000 fee on each vehicle.
Critics have been calling for the regulation of Uber and the like for years. The number of taxis in the city is capped at 13,500, and the medallions required to operate one cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Ride-sharing services have faced no such barrier, and their rapid growth has largely contributed to a major dip in the speed of traffic through Manhattan.
Richard Lipsky, a lobbyist and a longtime critic of Uber, gave testimony at the committee meeting. “The city is now suing oil companies to hold them responsible for present and future damage to the city from climate change,” he harped. “In exchange for this largesse, Uber gifted back the city traffic choking congestion that’s costing New York business around $20 billion a year.”
Ride-sharing services have a murky road ahead in New York City. Governor Andrew Cuomo has already proposed congestion pricing that would charge additional fees for any ride-sharing vehicle that operates below 60th Street. While all that’s happening, General Motors is already testing self-driving cars in the city, and Uber and Lyft are not far behind.
What’s clear is that the City Council is gearing up to relaunch its fight against Uber. Whether or not it'll actually be successful remains to be seen.