It was a victory for yellow taxi drivers who organized with the New York Taxi Workers Alliance.
The city's Taxi and Limousine Commission on Wednesday extended for one year a cap on ride-hailing app vehicles, such as Uber and Lyft, and approved news rules on how long drivers can cruise in parts of Manhattan without a passenger.
"This is New York City. This is our city. This is yellow cab city," Mouhamadou Aliyu, medallion owner and driver, said after the vote. "We're not going to take it. We're not going to let nobody come here and push us around. Enough is enough."
"There's a cap on musicians in subways, where they can play, there's a cap on hot dog vendors throughout the city. So there should be a cap on Uber," said John McDonagh, a cab driver.
The Bill de Blasio administration imposed the cap in 2018, refusing to allow any more app-hailed vehicles on the road, except those that are wheelchair-accessible.
Officials say ride-hailing app vehicles have exacerbated congestion. Yellow cab drivers have also been under significant financial distress in recent years with the rise of ride-hailing app vehicles, in addition to predatory lending practices. Mayor Bill de Blasio in May ordered a joint investigation into predatory practices by taxi medallion brokers following a New York Times report that delved into the devastation caused by risky loans associated with the rise and collapse of taxi medallion prices.
- NYC Yellow Cab Drivers' Earnings Have Fallen 44 Percent Since 2013
- NYC to Waive Yellow Cab Driver Fees
The mayor and city lawmakers have been under pressure to regulate the ride-hailing app industry and provide relief for yellow cab drivers. In the last two years, nine New York City drivers — including some ride-hailing app drivers — have taken their own lives due to significant debt.
Even some Uber drivers supported the cap freeze, to limit competition.
"Compared to last year, this year is better, hopefully next year is ... much better," said Bigu Haider, an Uber driver and organizer with the New York Taxi Workers Alliance.
But one group, the Independent Drivers Guild (IDG), criticized the freeze, saying it forces those who wish to drive their own cars to lease a set of wheels from existing license holders for hundreds of dollars a week.
"When they put this cap on, they locked us out of buying a car," said David Williams, an app driver and steward for the IDG. "So now, they in essence gave all the power to these leasing companies."
Taxi officials say they want to address the concerns raised by app drivers who are locked into sky-high rates, perhaps with limits on how much they pay.
Such limits already are in place on what owners of yellow cabs can charge to lease out their vehicles.
In a statement, Uber said the rules will "hurt drivers' ability to earn a living."
Lyft said taxi officials aim to "shrink New Yorkers' access to affordable and reliable transportation."
The taxi chairman brushed off criticisms. "They sell fear, they sell scarcity," said Bill Heinzen, the acting TLC chairman.
A LIMIT ON CRUISING WITHOUT A PASSENGER
Despite some opposition from the City Council and others, taxi commissioners on Wednesday also passed new restrictions on the amount of time ride-hailing app drivers can spend cruising around Manhattan below 96th Street without a passenger in the back seat. Wheelchair-accessible vehicles will be exempt from the new rules. The TLC hopes it will reduce congestion below 96th Street.
"For the yellow cabs, it's great, limiting us, as Uber and Lyft drivers," said an app driver. "Getting rid of us from the city will put them to work more."
"The TLC, for me, is not good," said one driver.
"Business is business. If you know how to make the money, you make the money every day," said another driver.
"We pay extra money just for the tolls, and it's hard to work and to make the money. It's not good for us," added a third driver.
According to city data, ride-hailing app-based drivers cruise below 96th Street without any passengers 41 percent of the time. The TLC is aiming to bring that number down to 36 percent by February 2020, and 31 percent by August 2020.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.
FURTHER TRANSIT READING