New York City Has Seized Hundreds of Uber Cars

They were violating rules on street hailing.


Customers for me, but not for thee.
Credit: afagen / photo on flickr

The thing about Uber cars is that technically, you're supposed to order them. They're a livery service. But some Uber drivers—many Uber drivers, it seems—in New York City have taken to acting just like the taxis they're competing against with, have gotten snagged by the New York Taxi and Limousine Commission, and had their vehicles seized.

From the New York Post:

The Taxi and Limousine Commission seized 496 cars currently affiliated with Uber's bases between April 29 and June 15 for picking up illegal street hails, records show.

Black and livery car drivers are only allowed to do pre-arranged trips, whether it is through a smartphone app or a base dispatch.

Many of the Uber drivers who had their cars seized were doing illegal pickups at JFK Airport.

An Uber spokesman acknowledged that street hails are not permitted by Uber and that these drivers were breaking the rules. Given just a small amount of information it seems likely these guys had just dropped off passengers and were looking for an easy pick-up without turning back to the app.

The Post story gives space for the typical complaints from the taxi industries about Uber service and how they want to institute the same anti-market rules (maximum number of permits, minimum fares) that screw over customers and competition to serve their own benefits. There is not a single inch of this story devoted to asking whether the customers actually benefited from being able to flag down an Uber driver or whether this actually helped solve a problem with trying to get a ride at the airport.

Yahoo News notes that Mayor Bill de Blasio will be appearing in court soon to face the taxi cartel companies who are saying that even allowing Uber to let people hail in through an app should not be permitted. Whether or not it's what customers want is apparently irrelevant. These taxi companies seem to think that the customers exist to serve them, not the other way around.

At least the taxi commission is seizing the cars of actual livery drivers this time. As noted last summer, the regulatory agency has a history of going over the top and seizing the vehicles of anybody they even suspected of operating an illegal cab, even if they were actually just somebody picking up a friend or loved one. The incentive was, as always, money from fines.  

On the other side of the country, Uber has hit another problem in California. There the California Labor Commission has ruled that one of Uber's drivers is an employee, not a private contractor, and ordered the company to reimburse her thousands in expenses. The decision only affects one employee and is non-binding, but could be disastrous to Uber's business model (and to those oft-ignored customers) if this is the start of a trend.

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    Scott, you KNOW I sent this in to 24/7 FUCKING YESTERDAY!!!!


    You got scooped by Gawker and you should be ashamed!

    1. *sobbing in the corner*

      1. I got several tips, but actually I already knew about the story. Sorry! Next time.

        1. I do not believe this. We all know you don’t have a degree from Columbia, so you have no credibility.

        2. lulz

          Scott, youP PWND the fuck out of the Monty!

        3. Never negotiate with terrorists.

    2. Where is your hat tip? Somewhere on the back-end of a woodchipper.

  2. I’m not religious, but this this black Christian’s comment on Dylan Roof’s Facebook profile picture is pretty awesome.

    The same guy was shot 8 times as part of a gang initiation ritual and had this to say about that:

    “I forgave the man who shot 7 bullets from a 45 caliber gun into my chest, and 1 bullet into my arm. One bullet remains inside my spine that is unable to be moved due to risk of paralysis & I lost the feeling in my right hand permanently. For years I held, bitterness, anger, and rage… but in 2010 when I gave my life to Jesus, I realized that I had to forgive to be free. Forgiving those who hurt you can save your life.”

    1. If every prospect has to live through an initiation being shot 7 or 8 time it must be a very small, but tough, gang.

  3. There is not a single inch of this story devoted to asking whether the customers actually benefited from being able to flag down an Uber driver or whether this actually helped solve a problem with trying to get a ride at the airport.

    It would be nice to think the average New Yorker would be able to suss that out for themselves, since people are voluntarily using the service.

  4. How is an illegal pick-up (presumably in the ‘wrong’ spot – sort of like a drug dealer who stands on the wrong corner) grounds for confiscating the vehicle? Shouldn’t that be something like a ticket at most? And how does the “Taxi and Limousine Commission” have the authority to instigate this?

    I mean, I know the real answers, but I wonder if even the regulations they acted under give them the power to do what they did.

    1. Fuck you, that’s why.

      But good question. Localities vary significantly in their tolerance of ridesharing. I doubt there are any non-taxi, non-limo drivers who see it as a bad thing. What’s frustrating is after all the regulatin’ Uber is going to be no more useful than a taxi. The taxis would rather erase the competitive advantage than rise to it. Well, of course. They win, we lose.

    2. It has nothing to do with location. You simply aren’t allowed to hail a livery car. You can only hail a taxi.

      1. IIRC, Uber is not allowed to pick up at airports even pre-arranged. The airports are the taxi cartel’s biggest cash cow so it’s even more regulate-y there.

      2. Interesting that Uber has on many occasions declared itself a black car/limo (later morphed to limo/taxi hybrid) service when challenged by local regulatory authorities.

    3. Not sure if they’re still doing this, but when I lived in neighboring Kearny NJ (barf) NYPD would confiscate your car over a DUI

      1. You mean the day of, or in the aftermath? That’s pretty common and part of DUI laws, from what I’ve seen and unfortunately experienced. In Florida, you have to turn in your car or license plate for 10 days if convicted. Of course, they use their local crony towing service to take the car after the arrest and you have to go get it.

        This didn’t seem to be started by the NYPD, though, but some taxi regulatory body. Maybe they had the NYPD involved or part of it, but where the hell do they get the power to take someones vehicle for an ‘illegal’ pick-up? Is it written into the regulations/law that they can do this?

        1. The way I recall, its vehicle forfeiture at their whim- they actually can permanently take your shit. If a person plays nice and jumps through hoops they can probably get their car back if a first time offender:

          “While CEU attorneys aggressively pursue forfeiture of the vehicles used by repeat offenders or in egregious circumstances, CEU allows many offenders to retrieve their vehicles pursuant to a forfeiture settlement agreement which involves evaluation of the offender for alcohol abuse by an independent state-certified counselor and the completion of any recommended treatment prior to the release of the vehicle. ”


    4. The government can steal from you at will. For example, I found this little nugget linked on Drudge this morning………


  5. It always baffles me why people are willing to pay triple the average cost of living to reside in NYC.

    1. People express different preferences – zOMG!

      1. You mean not everyone wants 2.5 kids, 2 cars, and a house in a quiet, sensible suburb?!

    2. You and Yogi Berra.

    3. The food!! The kulturrr!!!! /NYC resident

      Seriously though, I’m with you 110%. I don’t understand the fascination with that city. I’m not going to deny that they probably have some awesome restaurants, but that alone wouldn’t make it worth it, in my opinion. There are plenty of other cities that have great restaurants. And since I don’t care for bars or nightclubs, that really leaves no reason for me to live or even vacation in NYC.

      A city better have some goddamn amazing perks if they want me to put up with that kind of prog-fascist government, traffic from hell, and sky-high rents.

      1. Who chooses to live anywhere based on bars or parks? New Yorkers don’t do this – nobody does. Believe it or not, not everyone fits in to whatever you imagine the ideal lifestyle is.

        1. I live in Ohio, and there are tons of people here who go on and on about how much they hate it here, how they’re going to move to NYC “one of these days,” and harp on about how much better it is there. When I ask them what’s so great about it, 90% of the answers are food, “culture”, or bars and nightclubs.

          I never said that NYC is an objectively bad place to live; I just asserted that *I* would never consider living there, and stated why. It’s just a response to this attitude (that does in fact exist) that NYC is, objectively, the only place on Earth worth living.

  6. There the California Labor Commission has ruled that one of Uber’s drivers is an employee, not a private contractor, and ordered the company to reimburse her thousands in expenses.

    I skimmed the CA article and it’s hard to tell the pathway here. Did this woman get involved with Uber for the express purpose of suing? Did the law firm representing her go trolling for clients? Or did she genuinely get screwed over? I find the last one hard to believe since how could you have expectations of having expenses covered?

    1. Everyone who leases a taxi for the night is a private contractor. The dispatch service is part of the package. I don’t see how an Uber driver would be any different.

  7. NYC blows.
    -The End

    1. Most cities have the same kind of bullshit as NYC. NYC just has to do everything bigger and better.

      1. So NYC is capable of sucking Long Dong Silver’s dick. That’s what you’re saying?

        1. Johnny Wadd’s, more likely. And he’s dead.

    2. Know why people in NYC are always so mad?

      The light at the end of the tunnel is New Jersey.

      1. Will you be here all week?

        1. Unfortunately.

      2. Ahhh h ha. So true.

      3. For me it’s the damn tourists strolling around like they’re in a park. Move it lard ass I have things to do!

        1. More like a zoo.

          1. “Look Buffy! It’s a flock of Puerto Ricans! Take a pic. Wait til Brad and Diane see this!”

        2. They’re like that everywhere. Where I live, no one ever gets out of the goddamned way. Be they on bike, foot, or by car.

  8. The tax-protection laws are awful. But they did know the rules. Doesn’t make it OK, but it’s no surprise.

  9. “could be disastrous to Uber’s business model”

    It’s a vulnerable business model at best, and losing Uber would be no great loss. If I want a ride from point A to point B, there’s no good reason why I should have to inform Uber, or any other company.

    1. Pol Pot mtrueman: “To Keep You Is No Benefit. To Destroy You Is No Loss.”

      1. Businesses come and go every day. That’s what taking risk is all about. You want to mourn their demise, go ahead but don’t expect me to join you.

        1. See? The progressive lack of empathy?

          1. “The progressive lack of empathy?”

            You’ve never heard of Joseph Schumpeter? For my money, (and that’s not saying much, I admit) he’s the most interesting Libertarian thinker out there. Nothing particularly ‘progressive’ about him, as far as I know, but you may have different ideas. Don’t be shy if you feel the urge to share them. Or just bluster away if that’s what you fancy.

            1. Creative destruction refers to the incessant product and process innovation mechanism by which new production units replace outdated ones. It was coined by Joseph Schumpeter (1942), who considered it ‘the essential fact about capitalism’.

              If you think this is an example of creative destruction, then I don’t think creative means what you think it means.

              1. “then I don’t think creative means what you think it means.”

                Why is that?

                1. Why does it all always come down to the fact that your arguments can’t withstand the scrutiny of Webster’s dictionary?

                  1. “Why does it all always come down to the fact that your arguments can’t withstand the scrutiny of Webster’s dictionary?”

                    Webster wrote his dictionary almost 200 years ago, and I’m writing today. Things have changed, that’s why relying on a dated authority like Webster could lead you astray, and prevent you from following me.

                    1. Dictionaries are updated constantly to reflect language as it is used. Every year there are news stories about what funny modern words have been added and what old wrds have been reclassed as obsolete..

                      You’re pulling our legs, aren’t you? I should stop feeding you.

                    2. “Dictionaries are updated constantly to reflect language as it is used”

                      So what does the oh so up to date Webster have to say about Uber that is of any relevance to the discussion?

                    3. “The name Webster’s Dictionary may refer to any of the line of dictionaries first developed by Noah Webster in the early 19th century, and also to numerous unrelated dictionaries that added Webster’s name just to share his prestige. The term is a generic trademark in the US for comprehensive dictionaries of the English language.[1]

                      You don’t do well with facts and context, so you?

                      I’m following you just fine. You’re the one asking why taxi cartels driving Uber out of business by law rather than by creativity, doesn’t count as creative destruction.

                      And, really, I don’t care to explain it to you. My joy comes from pointing out the obvious logical and factual errors in your arguments, for my own delight, in front of anyone reading, most of whom I am sure get it. At that point, it’s really up to you to save your own argument.

                      And, if you’re too obtuse to respond in any way other than to say, “I don’t get it”, well, that doesn’t really change my equation. I know you don’t get it: you’re an idiot. That’s the point.

                      I’m not here to talk idiots out of idiocy.

                  2. He earns the scorn of Emmanuel Lewis himself!

            2. Interesting that you are making this argument and you do have a good tactic of mentioning Schumpeter. This is exactly right, businesses do fail every day and we should not get sentimental about them in a free market.

              But this is where you are being intentionally duplicitous – WE ARE NOT TALKING ABOUT A FREE MARKET HERE. Otherwise, Uber would be kicking ass. We are talking about a heavily-regulated and crony-laden cartel that dominates the market that Uber is trying to open up. And that should be applauded.

              But you don’t like choice or freedom, so it is understandable why you would obfuscate like you have.

              1. Well summarized. Pretending the taxi market is in any way free is dilusional.

              2. “But you don’t like choice or freedom”

                What gives you that idea? Where have I written of my dislikes and likes?

                I’ve been around for a few decades. I’ve yet to see a free market. Can you point to one? I think Uber and many similar centralized services like Facebook are one small innovation away from oblivion. I’ve been on the internet for a few years now, and to me, the most breathtaking, the most significant potential I’ve seen is in decentralized services like bittorrent. It’s also the most liberating and choice enhancing. Reason’s editors and commenters don’t agree apparently. I guess they shrink away from the anti-authoritarian implications. But maybe not. What’s your opinion?

                1. What could possibly replace Uber-style service? Flying cars?

                  Getting from a random point A to a random point B using a real time request from a personal communication device seems to be pretty basic. So what one small innovation is going to blow away that business model?

                  Thus we see the perils of mtrueman typing before he thinks.

                  1. Maybe by small you meant personal jet packs with auto pilots, sense and avoid, fits in a brief case, and has enough fuel to make the random treks across your basic large coastal city?

                    Is that the small innovation of which you have opined?

                  2. “a personal communication device seems to be pretty basic”

                    But not as basic as you apparently assume. It’s a question of software architecture. Read my other comments here if you are interested, and if you have any questions (or bluster or insults) don’t be shy.

                    1. So I happen to be an experienced software architect,

                      Getting from a random….from a personal communication device.

                      Is a requirement, well several requirements rolled into one.

                      The architecture is pretty irrelevant as long as it meets the timeliness reqs, can apply constraints, etc. to the transaction. The Uber business model only relies on the communication not how the communication is implemented. Does it really matter if its client/server, LAMPS, or SOA over some sort of cloud based web services architecture?

                    2. ..that and the vetting service that Uber provides.

                    3. “..that and the vetting service that Uber provides.”

                      The eternal question: who will vet the vetters?

                    4. “Does it really matter if its client/server, LAMPS, or SOA over some sort of cloud based web services architecture?”

                      Couldn’t tell you. What does your experience as a software architect tell you?

                    5. Well the main issue is that discovery has to happen somehow, then two parties can connect if they have the matching protocols.

                      What Uber does is they manage the discovery process with some value added features like vetting, availability, etc.

                      I suppose you could publish an interface/schema for performing Uber-like transactions. That would be a start, maybe some other party just manages communications based on some set of attributes. Still requires a third party to match the service request with the provider. Otherwise the provider would have to advertise their service somehow…using google even.

                      You might get to a point where p2p could be backed up by third party vetting service that knows nothing about the transaction other than the reputations of the two parties through maybe granting certificates of some sort.

                      In the end though, it all still maps back to my original statement…and doesn’t bode well for that ONE SMALL INNOVATION.

                    6. “You might get to a point where p2p could be backed up by third party vetting service that knows nothing about the transaction other than the reputations of the two parties through maybe granting certificates of some sort.”

                      A guy just tried that and it lead to Reason and some Reason commenters getting a call from the DoJ.

                    7. “.and doesn’t bode well for that ONE SMALL INNOVATION.”

                      Maybe it’s several large innovations. As an experienced software architect you must know that what seems small to the mind can quickly get uncomfortably large when translated into code.

              3. But, but, but… this is being enacted by a democratically elected government. The people have spoken through their representatives. That a significant number say otherwise through their actions and buying decisions is irrelevant.

              4. Uber is valuable in the sense that they have the backing to potential break the evil progressive stranglehold that Big Taxicab has on its market. I certainly couldn’t fight them on my own.

            3. C-

      1. Let me put it another way. Let’s say you have some information you want to share with your friends and acquaintances. Before informing them, is it or is it not necessary for you to first inform Mark Zuckerberg?

        1. If I want Mark to arrange a ride for me, I have to tell him where I am.

          1. “If I want Mark to arrange a ride for me”

            You (just like Uber and Reason) are taking for granted that you need to turn to a third party to arrange something for you. That’s the vulnerability I was talking about.

            1. If I don’t have enough friends with cars and spare time to arrange a cheap and convenient ride for myself (I don’t), I have to engage a service to do it for me.
              I still don’t understand what you’re trying to say.

              1. Apparently, the vulnerability is scarcity, and the restraints on individuals imposed by the space-time continuum.

                I suggest a 5-year plan.

              2. “I still don’t understand what you’re trying to say.”

                I’m thinking of a p2p computer application along the lines of bittorrent file-sharing. Cutting out the middle man. Best not to say too much, I’m thinking about writing something like that myself.

                1. There’s a reason p2p is used exclusively by the technorati. If you’ve found a way to make it usable by the average consumer – and somehow make money off it – that would be revolutionary.

                  1. “If you’ve found a way to make it usable by the average consumer – and somehow make money off it – that would be revolutionary.”

                    I agree. I also think it’s revolutionary even if there haven’t been any entrepreneurs coming along yet who’ve figured out ways to make money off it.

                2. How is that different from what bit-torrent already is?

                  1. Client server model vs. peer to peer. Peer to peer has the potential to upset business models based on the client service model.

                    1. “BitTorrent is a protocol for the practice of peer-to-peer file sharing that is used to distribute large amounts of data over the Internet. BitTorrent is one of the most common protocols for transferring large files, and peer-to-peer networks have been estimated to collectively account for approximately 43% to 70% of all Internet traffic (depending on geographical location) as of February 2009.[1]”

                      Are you sure that you’re not a little bit too late in disrupting the client-server model with a peer-to-peer model?

                      Do you give all you grand ideas this much research and forethought?

                    2. Client/server has been a relic for quite a while.

                    3. Are Uber and Facebook examples of the client server model?

                    4. I would bet that Uber is built on a web services model which is SOA…and not client server.

                    5. And same with Facebook? Would you say that Uber’s most vital, irreplaceable contribution is this vetting service, vouching for the soundness of both passenger and driver? And Mark Zukerberg, does he have a similarly important contribution?

                    6. No to both questions.

                    7. Oh, you want decentralized uber.

                      Sure, go for it. There are people working on similar things right now. Combine it with something like Bitcoin, and you could probably undermine the government in some major ways: force the IRS to rely on an honor system, etc.

                      Godspeed, mtrueman.

                      However, back to the main point, the idea of creative destruction is that a product is destroyed by the arrival of a new product, in reality.

                      The idea isn’t that you see Uber getting banned by law because of taxi cartels, and chalking that up to creative destruction because you think you can whiteboard something you like better, that has no actual presence in reality, or ability to offer anything at the moment to anyone.

                      You know: for something to creatively displace something else, it has to actually displace it, in more places than inside your head.

                      And, let’s be frank: does anyone think you’re going to find the time outside of being obtuse on the Internet to offer anything but that?

                    8. “The idea isn’t that you see Uber getting banned by law because of taxi cartels, and chalking that up to creative destruction”

                      That wasn’t my idea. My idea was that innovative software should be able to eliminate the need for a middleman such as Uber. The fact that they make such easy targets for a government nobody here has any illusions about does nothing to bolster the soundness of their business model.

                    9. Then I guess you were stupid for bringing up Joseph Schumpeter.

                    10. And I guess if I was stupid then. I’m no less stupid now.

            2. Where the hell are you getting that? Do you have reading comprehension disabilities?

  10. This is what happens when you try to ignore society’s rules.

    Those guys from Uber are lucky they’re not staring at a life sentence.

    1. When you violate the social contract, you violate…all of us.

      1. Trigger warning:

        I FEEL VIOLATED!!!!

      2. Violating the social contract subjects you to social justice.

  11. Did this woman get involved with Uber for the express purpose of suing?

    I would not surprise me in the least.

  12. Taxi and Limousine Commission: “So, how much, and to whom should we make this out to?”
    de Blasio: “500k should do for now; and make it out to my wife’s foundation. Oh, and throw in an extra 100k for the Judge”
    Judge: “Injunction is so ordered.”
    de Blasio: “Lunch is on me”

  13. When I want to build a fusion reactor I keep Mr. Zuckerberg informed.


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