The municipal government in New York City has made no secret of the war they’ve been waging against gig economy companies like Uber and Lyft for the past several years. They’ve passed one bill after another designed to support their traditional donors in the taxi industry and their unions, making it increasingly difficult for ride-sharing drivers to make a living. But what impact is that having on the community? Uber has been looking into it and found (to nobody’s surprise) that it’s the poorest New Yorkers, particularly in minority communities who are paying the price. (NY Post)
The San Francisco company says city and state regulations reining in ride-hailing services like Uber are only making life difficult for lower income neighborhoods — while having zero impact on more affluent New York City riders.
“The data suggests that the TLC’s regulations may be impacting low-income New Yorkers, especially in communities that are poorly served by yellow taxis,” Chad Dobbs, Uber’s head of rides in the city, told The Post.
Dobb’s statement comes ahead of a hearing before the Taxi Limousine Commission Tuesday to consider more regulations, including extending the current NYC freeze on for-hire vehicles.
Wage requirements and other regulations have driven up the minimum cost of taking an Uber or Lyft in the city considerably. On top of that, the government passed a freeze on the addition of any new for-hire vehicles. As drivers drop out, this leads to fewer cars being available, so surge pricing often goes into effect, driving up costs further. The result is that affluent riders probably don’t notice it all that much, but low income, economically disadvantaged residents are being priced out of the system.
As a result, Uber says that the number of rides being requested in lower-income neighborhoods has grown only three percent in the past year while affluent regions have seen growth of 50% or more.
It’s not as if getting a ride in some of the city’s rougher neighborhoods was easy to begin with. There are areas with higher crime levels where the yellow cabs simply refuse to go for pickup or drop off of passengers. Ride-hailing drivers are more likely to venture into those neighborhoods because they’re not be randomly flagged down by unknown individuals who may be waiting to rob them. Riders have to have a registered account on their phone, so they are less likely to commit a crime in the car with their name on the system’s record of ride requests.
The result of all this is that too many people have a hard time getting a ride. And if you can’t predictably find transportation to get back and forth, it’s kind of hard to hold down a job, adding to the economic woes many of these communities already suffer under.
So who exactly is benefitting from this dogpile of new regulations being hurled at Uber and Lyft? It’s not the city’s poorest residents. It’s the cab companies, their unions and their lobbyists who have the ear of the Mayor and the City Council. And they pay richly for that access. It might be nice if someone pointed all of this out during next year’s elections in the Big Apple.