taxi uber strike
(Credit: iStock/OnickzArtworks)

If you've ever been to New York, you'll know that traffic is not a joke--the movies don't exaggerate. Even before the sun comes up, cars are packing the streets. During rush hour, you can get passed over by a taxi since they are so many people fighting for a ride. The arrival of car-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft have been a saving grace in that sense. They've also made it easier to get rides in areas that aren't near the city center.

It's become relatively easy to sign up as an Uber or Lyft driver as well. But, that's also led to growing issues in America's largest city.

Last year, for the first time ever, there were more Uber drivers in New York than yellow taxis. The New York Times reported the city had about 65,000 affiliated drivers. The Taxi and Limousine Commission's math says that's 400,000 rides a day.

That, the New York City Council said, is a problem.

Citing the street congestion and low driver wages, the city suggested setting a limit to how many Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing drivers can be operating at a time. If it passes, the city would be the first in the US to have set a limit on the industry. Mayor Bill de Blasio wants a vote by August 8.

SEE: When traveling to New York City, use these apps to guide you (a Download.com guide)

The city claims this will help traffic, but Uber disagrees. The company thinks if new licenses are frozen, drivers will congregate in midtown Manhattan, the most lucrative area, still causing congestion and neglecting the outer-borough passengers, who are already underserved by taxis.

This is the second attempt by New York City to cap ride-sharing in three years. After massive social media backlash in 2015, de Blasio stood down.

Another issue is money. Drivers aren't making enough to survive. Setting up a minimum wage for drivers would help with the costs of owning and driving a car in the city. The study done by the TLC in New York City said $17.22 would be adequate to give drivers the equivalent of time off without the customer suffering higher wait times and travel costs.

The study found that 60 percent of ride-hailing drivers in New York are full time, providing 4 out of 5 rides on the platforms. If Uber drivers were considered employees, the company would be the largest private-sector employer in the city.

Uber is stirring up debate overseas as well. While there's no talk in the United States about banning ride-hailing services, that's exactly what happened in London in September 2017.

Transport authority said Uber wasn't safe and shouldn't hold an operating license. Shocked, the company prepared to duke it out in court. At the time, the loss of Uber put 40,000 drivers out of work. More than 3 million people were using Uber in London.

The company received a new 15-month contract to resume operations in July 2018.

Not everyone is defending Uber though.

Spanish taxi drivers just ended their strike after government officials suggested the transfer of power to regional governments to limit the number of licenses used by private car companies. The drivers have blocked roads with the cars and set up tents. They fear job security with the ride-hailing moguls growing only larger. The cab drivers demanded only one private driver be in operation for every 30 taxis.

The strike had been going for almost a week, during Spain's peak tourism season with the hashtag #HuelgaTaxis trending on Twitter. The demonstrators say they aren't going anywhere until they're satisfied with government official meetings.

Former New York City Deputy Transportation Commissioner Bruce Schaller told NPR that Uber has decimated the taxi industry. Schaller said that Uber's warpath isn't ignoring other modes of public transportation either.

Schaller's research shows that many Uber users would've used another mode of transportation if the app wasn't available. Many of them don't even own a car. Schaller said this dispells the myth that Uber and Lyft are taking other vehicles off the road. The actual traffic is doubled or tripled by the service's growth, he claimed.

Schaller even found that some drivers cruise around without passengers, adding to congestion.

Uber, though only 8-years old, has made its mark. The rapid, mass influx of ride-hailing drivers has depleted the value of taxi medallions. Once worth upwards of $1.3 million in 2013, medallions now dip into the range of $160,000 - $250,000 each.

Six taxi drivers have committed suicide in the past eight months, reportedly after depression from the financial stress.

Chicago taxi drivers interviewed by NPR were against the exponential growth of the ride-sharing industry. One complained that the Uber drivers didn't know the rules of the road as well as taxi drivers do.

Uber lashed out against the proposed legislation in their app. They urge their passengers to oppose the bills and tagged it with #DontStrandNYC.

"Some of the proposals are worthwhile, but others could make Uber more expensive and less reliable throughout the five boroughs--severely impacting New Yorkers who rely on Uber when public transit isn't an option," Uber's message said. "Tell the City Council not to restrict your access to reliable transportation."

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Takeaways

  1. The New York City Council is threatening Uber, the popular ride sharing app, with new legislation to restrict their growth.
  2. The restrictions include capping new licenses and adding a minimum wage. Uber disagrees with the policies and has been encouraging its customers to oppose them.

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Shelby is an Associate Writer for Download.com.