Why Local Council Members Voted to Freeze the Number of App-Based, For-Hire Vehicles For One Year

By Carol Tannenhauser

The number of app-based, for-hire cars licensed in New York City has more than quadrupled in the past three years to 63,000. Last Wednesday, the City Council voted to freeze that number for one year, mandating the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) to study the impacts of the explosive growth of Uber, Lyft and Via on both drivers and the city, to determine if and how the industry should be regulated going forward.

Local Council Member Mark Levine (District 7), who voted for the legislation, explained in a telephone interview why he felt it was so important.

“One of the effects of the dramatic increase in licenses is that we have more and more drivers competing for fares, and, therefore, longer and longer wait times for the drivers between passengers,” he said. “It’s estimated that 40% of the time of the average driver is spent cruising around with no passengers. That affects their income, obviously; they’re not being paid for that time, even though they’re burning gas. So many of the vehicles you see crowding the streets of midtown and the Upper West Side don’t have passengers. They’re not performing a function and they’re costing us in terms of congestion and the environment.”

Levine stressed that “they’ll be a pause for a year, but there will be no reduction in vehicles. And we’re going to allow additional licenses for wheelchair-accessible vehicles, so there will be growth in that category, which is very important.

“As of now,” he said, “only about 400 app-based, for-hire vehicles are wheelchair accessible, out of 63,000.”

Council Member Helen Rosenthal (District 6), a co-sponsor, praised the legislation.

“Ensuring every driver in New York City earns a decent wage, tackling the nuances of congestion, and properly regulating app-based vehicles is a fair, evidence-based, and comprehensive approach,” she wrote in an email to WSR. “Even better, the 12-month moratorium on new licenses exempts wheelchair-accessible vehicles – a powerful incentive to finally start adding accessible vehicles to the road. It also stresses that if an area of the city is under-served by for-hire vehicles, the TLC is authorized to issue new licenses.”

The mayor has already announced that he will sign the bill into law. It will take effect 120 days after signing. Vehicles in the process of applying will be grandfathered in.


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