Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who took the board of the controversial company back in 2017, is known to be rather reluctant. He was even optimistic during the company's second-quarter earnings call when he was indicted for explaining why Uber had lost more than $ 5 billion dollars in just a few months.
But in response to an analyst's question about how the rules in New York had affected the company's bottom line, Khosrowshahi was a little spicy, at least for Khosrowshahi. "I think anyone who tells you that the changes in New York City are good is …" he paused for a moment. "It's vicious key,"
One person's evil article is another's sensible political decision. Nearly a decade after ride-hil companies began to take advantage of the gray areas of decades-old taxi regulations around the country, Uber and Lyft have found themselves subject to ever-stricter rules in the Big Apple.
The city, its Democratic presidential hopeful Mayor, Bill De Blasio, and its chief hail regulator, taxi and limousine chief, say the rules aim to help drivers slow down city traffic, slowing at a jogging pace in some parts of Manhattan. The companies say the rules hurt drivers, riders and, of course, their bottom line. Drivers, meanwhile, says they are the left holds the bag.
The new wave of rule-breaking began last summer when the city introduced the country's first-ever freeze on rental car vehicles, preventing drivers from registering new cars to drive for businesses. (The freeze exempts wheelchair accessible and electric vehicles.) In January, Uber and Lyft tours, beginning or ending in much of Manhattan, were hit with an additional $ 2.75 overload. (Taxis received a $ 2.50 fee of their own.) Despite a lawsuit by Lyft (and a smaller competitor named Juno), companies were forced to start paying drivers $ 17.22 per hour earlier this year. And a new state law will force companies to reject their fleets to accommodate wheelchair users faster. Phew.
Now, new regulations approved by city regulators this month extend the freezing of new Uber and Lyft vehicle licenses in New York indefinitely. (This spring, a judge blocked an Uber lawsuit aimed at stopping it). The rules also cut down on "cruising," or the time drivers spend waiting for their next rides or driving to their customers, forcing companies to rethink how they ship drivers.
The rules are especially less than ideal for businesses – malarkey, some might say – because the city is among their largest markets. Uber said New York is one of five metro areas that collectively account for just under a quarter of its gross ride-hil bookings in filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, just before it was published. (The others are Los Angeles, San Francisco, London and São Paulo.) Although Lyft did not reveal a similar metric in its own public filings, the company is still mostly US-based, suggesting that in New York it may be yet more important .
The city also has symbolic significance. Although most other cities do not have the authority to regulate ride-hailing in the way New York does, many, also sick of traffic, are looking for ways to do so. Some hope to levy fees on companies such as the one collected in Chicago, Washington, DC, and if the San Francisco's decide to adopt an upcoming poll, City by the Bay. Others are attracted to the hard stick of New York's vehicle hood. During her election, Chicago's new mayor told a newspaper that she would favor new limits on the number of ride-hail vehicles in town. (The city's Consumer Protection Office, which is responsible for regulating ride-hailing, did not respond to WIRED's request for comment.)
Uber and Lyft, for their part, argue that they are unreasonably scapegoating for a traffic problem most traceable to ordinary old Americans driving their regular old cars to work alone every day. "TLC's wrong policies will reduce New Yorkers access to affordable and reliable transportation," Lyft spokesman Campbell Matthews said in a statement, while an Uber spokesman said the company worries "that the mayor's rules will damage drivers' ability to to earn a living. "
The ride-hailing companies have responded to the rules, which they say have been introduced too quickly for anyone to understand their impact, with cat-and-mouse tactics aimed at keeping riders in cars and revenue in your pocket. Companies, for example, have raised prices across the city, a move that Uber says has led to a saddened ride development in some low-income neighborhoods.
The ride-hailing companies are also changing the way their apps work for New York City drivers, many of whom work full-time because of the city's stricter licensing policies. In times of low demand, Lyft limits the number of drivers on the road and gives priority to drivers in large numbers who have accepted and completed 90% of their driving, or those who have wheelchair-friendly cars, or those who participate in the company's Express Drive program that rents vehicles for licensed drivers who do not own cars. The driver app also now includes a "heat map" showing where rides are in the highest demand, and Lyft has urged riders looking for rides to go there before turning on their app – encouraging them to drive to it place where the app needs them without being paid for it, and without Lyft being penalized by both the new driver's salary and new cruise rules. Uber sent an email to drivers earlier this month stating that it is also losing changes to its driver app.
Many drivers are unhappy. In a letter sent to the Taxi and Limousine Commission in June, the Independent Driver's Guild, which says it represents 65,000 drivers, called on the city to take action against Lyft for the changes it had made to its app. (IDG is supported by the International Association of Machinists, but is partly funded by Uber.) "The app companies treat us like disposable items," the driver and IDG member Tina Raveneau told the Taxi and Limousine Commission during testimony in June. IDG is also opposed to New York's decision to extend its vehicle licensing cap, suggesting drivers trapped in the middle feel there's plenty of blame to go around.
This story originally came on wired.com.