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August 9 2018

NYC’s Vote to Curb Uber, Lyft Growth is About Saving Taxis, Transit Not Helping Passengers

by Patrice Lee Onwuka

New York City Council voted this week to halt the growth of ride-hailing companies for one year in a bid to save a failing taxicab industry and slowing public transit ridership. But it is riders - especially those outside of Manhattan - who will suffer from fewer options, higher fares, and longer commutes.

The city council approved legislation that would stop the growth of ride-hailing companies for one year, while the city studies their impact on congestion in the city. Cabs have been heavily lobbying for these protections for years and it seems they’ve won, for now.

Over the past five years, ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft added 80,000 vehicles to the road which dwarfs the city’s fleet of 45,00 taxis, liveries, and black cars.

All of these cars aren’t necessarily driving full-time or on the roads at the same time, but they do add to the number of vehicles on the roads. That is a good thing for the city’s neighborhoods which taxicabs choose not to serve. Limiting ride-hailing in these communities could lead to higher wait times and more expensive rides.

Before lawmakers were concerned with saving taxicabs, which have seen the values of their medallions plummet from $1 million dollars five years ago to $200,000 today. A handful of taxicab drivers have allegedly even committed suicide because of the financial pressure they face.

Now, public transit is starting to feel the pinch of falling ridership and they are jumping on the bandwagon against competition in transportation.

The city council may be looking out for the money it spends on public transit and the taxicab industry, but it should consider the impact of limiting access to ride-hailing on commuters.

In their own words, here is why commuters from poor, working-class, and more remote communities are choosing ride-hailing over public transit:

Ms. Lucas uses UberPool up to 10 times a week, mostly to commute across Queens between her apartment in Briarwood and a part-time job at a doctor’s office in Bayside. With a coupon, she can ride for between $6 and $9 each way.

Her journey on public transit—either two bus rides, or a subway and a bus—takes about an hour, she said. In a car, the journey takes about 20 minutes.

Yvonne Ortiz, a case worker with New York City Administration for Children’s Services, uses UberPool most days to commute between Wakefield and Mott Haven in the Bronx.

Ms. Ortiz said, depending upon traffic, the ride takes between 30 and 45 minutes and costs $7.99 with a discount program called “ride pass.”

Ms. Ortiz said the same commute on the bus and the subway takes one hour. But only on a good day.

Khalid Weir, a 28-year-old production assistant from East Flatbush in Brooklyn, takes Lyft Line, a ride-share service similar to UberPool, to Long Island City in Queens several times a week.

The rides cost between $20 and $25. “It just takes a lot of stress off my mind knowing I can still get there on time,” he said.

New York City lawmakers are intentionally trying to frustrate commuters with ride-hailing services to drive them back to public transit options or taxicabs. That is government tampering with the transportation market to favor one option over another.

Ride-hailing emerged because people wanted another way to get around cheaper and faster. Not only do downtown passengers benefit, but commuters from neighborhoods that cabs refused to service or where public transit was unreliable and limited.

Drivers enjoy a flexible work arrangement that allows them to earn additional income or a living using their vehicle.

Communities also benefit from fewer drunk drivers on the road. As Betsy reported this week, fewer millennials are being arrested for DUIs because they have moved from behind the wheel to the back seat.

Hopefully, other cities will not follow New York City’s decision and start to limit ride-hailing which would be a loss for competition, drivers earning income, and the passengers who just need to get around.

Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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