NYC Bill to Stop Uber From Growing Now About Protecting Passengers, or Something

The latest in the Uber wars is more inanity.


On Thursday I noted here at Hit & Run that Uber was using creative means to fight back against proposed legislation in New York City that would cap its ability to register new cars at 1 percent a year. Residents who took the time to write to the city and voice their disapproval apparently received the following message back. (Hat tip to two different readers for forwarding the below to us.)

Thank you for your message.

Rest assured, despite the overheated rhetoric – Uber is welcome in New York City.  There are – and there will be going forward – more for-hire cars and drivers on our roads than ever before. 

The reality is that today in New York City, Uber – a $40 billion corporation – is spending millions on a misleading political campaign to convince New Yorkers that it doesn't need more oversight from the City. 

Meanwhile, there are serious questions about how Uber treats its customers, its workers, and whether it is flooding New York City's already heavily-crowded streets with thousands of more vehicles.

New Yorkers deserve a real examination of whether Uber drivers are treated fairly; whether customers are protected against discrimination; whether Uber and other for-hire services will provide accessibility for the disabled, which they don't do reliably today; and whether New York City streets will become even more clogged as tens of thousands of more vehicles enter the market.

The City has a responsibility to keep people safe, to ensure workers and customers are treated fairly, to keep our streets moving, and to keep our economy competitive. That is why the City is supporting a temporary growth limit on new for-hire vehicles added to our streets, including those operated by Uber, while it can study their real impact over a short period of time.  

Contrary to the misinformation out there, no one is banning Uber or ending it as you know it. The service you use today will continue to be there tomorrow, the day after, and in the months ahead.  We want passengers to continue to have access to the ever-improving service that companies like Uber are helping to provide.

But no company, no matter how big it is or how much it spends on ads, has a blank check to skirt vital protections and oversight for New Yorkers.  Protecting New Yorkers' health and safety remains our first priority, and the City's responsibility is to establish basic rules to do exactly that.

And all companies have to play by them.

Tony Shorris
First Deputy Mayor

Emphasis mine.

A few weeks ago when I interviewed City Council Member Stephen Levin, who sponsored the bill in question, he told me the purpose of freezing ride-booking companies' growth was that the city needed to be able to study the impacts on traffic congestion and the environment. He also mentioned that all these "new cars" on the roads could have health effects, like leading to higher asthma rates.

We'll leave aside for the time being the dubiousness of assuming that all the cars being registered to livery services are actually new to the city (as opposed to being cars owned by people already living in New York who simply decided to make some extra money by giving other people a lift).

It's telling that in the above email from New York's first deputy mayor, neither the potential "health impacts" nor the environmental effects that Levin was so worried about are there to be found.

Instead, the city has come up with a whole new post hoc rationale for stopping Uber in its tracks: oversight. Because who could be against that?

Mayor Bill de Blasio's office is saying, in essence, that in order to make sure Uber's drivers are treated fairly, the city's going to prevent any more of them from being able to work. In order to make sure Uber's customers aren't being discriminated against (as if traditional cab drivers aren't infamous for using stereotypes in choosing whom to pick up and where to go), the city's going to impose longer wait times and higher prices on everyone. And in order to make sure disabled Americans have equal rights, the city's going to impede access to a service that makes life easier for the millions of people who don't have disabilities.

If you haven't seen it yet, check out Reason TV's excellent mini-documentary on the D.C. Uber Wars below.