Brooklyn Boro

Number of Uber, Lyft cars could be curbed by NYC Council

July 27, 2018 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The New York City Council is considering several bills that would temporarily restrict the number of Uber and Lyft vehicles allowed on the road. Green cab driver Majed Al-Fallaj, shown above, says it’s about time the city reins in Uber, which he blames for killing the traditional taxi business. Eagle photo by Mary Frost
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The New York City Council is considering several bills that would temporarily restrict the number of Uber and Lyft vehicles allowed on the road.

For green cab driver Majed Al-Fallaj, who has been in the taxi business for 20 years, the bills can’t come soon enough.

“We’re not making money with Uber,” he told the Brooklyn Eagle. “Uber has too many cars, too many young drivers, and they’re killing everybody with their prices. I’m driving 12 hours today, and I’m not making any money.”

Al-Fallaj, who says he knows the streets of Brooklyn by heart after living here all his life, blames Uber for the drastic increase in traffic he’s seen in the city over the past two years.

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“They have almost 40,000 cars. Before, I used to go to midtown in half hour, 40 minutes tops, and come back. Now it takes me an hour to two hours from Downtown Brooklyn to midtown,” he said.

Customers Like the Convenience of the Taxi Industry’s ‘Disruptor’

Customers of services like Uber and Lyft would rather call up a ride using their cellphone app than take a cab, bus or subway, pointing to superior availability, speed and convenience. And Uber has been constantly updating its service, building in feedback options, a safety button, cheaper pool options and more ways to pay.

Uber has been cited as an example of a regulated industry “disruptor.”

According to Michael Horn, a contributor to Forbes, “Lessons from regulated industries show that disruptors can topple the incumbents in these industries by first innovating outside of the reach of regulators; as the up-starts accumulate a sufficient number of customers, regulators cave ex post facto to the new reality in reaction to the innovator’s success.”

In New York City, however, the popular car services are now under fire for making New York City’s congestion worse than ever and driving traditional cab drivers to the brink of bankruptcy. Six taxi drivers have committed suicide, and their fellow drivers blame the city for not reining in Uber.

One of the bills, introduced by Councilmember Stephen Levin (D-Greenpoint, Brooklyn Heights), would require the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) to limit the issuance of for-hire vehicle licenses (not including standard taxis) through April 30, 2019. Following the completion of a study, the TLC would be required to submit to the speaker and the mayor recommendations for mitigating any impacts of the Uber-style services.

On Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a broadcast on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show that the city had evidence that “a huge number of these for-hire vehicles, like Uber cars for example, are driving around empty. Unfortunately Uber’s business model is to flood the zone, to get lots and lots of drivers, make them basically compete against each other, and a lot of times not make much money.”

While that’s good for Uber’s business models, “it clogs up our streets and I think it’s a huge problem,” he said.

On Friday, Lyft issued a statement saying the bills “would take New York back to an era of standing on the corner and hoping to get a ride. Wait times would increase significantly and driver earnings and job opportunities would shrink. Worst of all, the proposals prioritize corporate medallion owners above the overwhelming majority of New Yorkers.”

Even Playing Field

In a City Council hearing in April, Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez (D-Washington Heights), chair on the Council Committee on Transportation, said he wants to hold “for-hire vehicles to some of the same rules as the yellow taxis,” including requiring app-based companies to be accessible to persons with disabilities by 2025.

He also would require the Taxi and Limousine Commission to consider, among other things, “the possible adverse effects on the quality of life, traffic congestion, sidewalk congestion, parking availability, noise and the environment.”

Al-Fallaj says he knows many seasoned taxi drivers who quit. “Either they work in the deli or they do cleaning.”

Uber uses “mostly young drivers,” he claimed. “Just to get a car and show off, to drive around with the music high, that’s the Uber drivers. They’re not responsible, they don’t know the city. They have to use GPS.”

Uber driver Firuz Davronov, who has been driving for about one year, told the Eagle that he knows the city pretty well, and just uses GPS when traveling to “different places like New Jersey.” He said he had to pass a test and get a TLC license, just like a traditional taxi driver.

Davronov says that he does “just okay” financially, with Uber, but has no complaints.

He welcomes the City Council’s bills because they won’t affect him.

“For some people it’s bad. For new drivers, if they want to join, it’s bad for them,” he said.

Davronov agrees that traffic is bad in the city, but says that Uber is not to blame.

“A lot of yellow cab drivers [are] in the city too, not only Uber. And a lot of trucks and buses,” he said.

The Eagle has reached out to Uber for comment.

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