New York extends cap on for-hire vehicle licenses

New York (AFP) –


Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday that New York will extend a cap on the number of licenses issued to for-hire vehicles operated by companies such as Uber and Lyft.

The ceiling is likely to change each year, the city council said, but the municipality will set a maximum number -- a measure that did not exist prior to August 2018.

"For too long, app companies have taken advantage of hardworking drivers, choking our streets with congestion and driving workers into poverty," de Blasio said in a statement.

Currently, the number of for-hire vehicle licenses exceeds 120,000 in the city, according to a report released this month by the Taxi and Limousine Commission.

De Blasio's announcement is a new setback for app-based ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft, which had already sued to overturn the initial 2018 decision capping licenses.

The city also imposed, effective February 1, 2019, a minimum wage of $17.22 per hour for drivers of for-hire vehicles, a decision unsuccessfully challenged in court by Uber and its rival Lyft.

"The mayor's cap will create another medallion system -- the same kind that bankrupted drivers and enriched lenders," a spokesman for Uber said in a statement, referring to the system used to regulate taxis.

According to the spokesman, drivers who do not have a license but want to work for a for-hire vehicle platform will have to rent one that is allowed to drive, resulting in "exorbitant" extra costs to them.

The Independent Drivers Guild meanwhile hailed the measure, saying that "stopping apps from flooding the streets with excess drivers is a good thing."

"But any future cap policy must give existing for-hire drivers the ability to drive vehicles they own rather than lease at the hands of predatory leasing companies," it said.

The mayor also announced Wednesday that the city would limit the time that for-hire vehicle drivers can spend without customers to 31 percent of overall service -- a measure that only affects the south of Manhattan, the most congested part of the city.

According to a Taxi and Limousine Commission study, drivers currently spend an average of 41 percent of their time driving without customers, which contributes to worsening CO2 emissions, de Blasio said during a news conference.

The mayor estimated that the measure could increase the average speed of vehicles in this area by 10 percent and help drivers make an extra $6,000 per year on average.