NYC blaming cab driver suicides on Uber

There have been a series of three tragic deaths in New York City recently with two disturbing things in common. All of them were suicides and all three of the deceased were cab drivers. The most recent one was obviously planned by the deceased as a shocking public statement since prior to taking his own life, Douglas Schifter posted a lengthy suicide note blaming Mayor Bill de Blasio, Governor Andrew Cuomo, former Governor Mike Bloomberg and, of course, Uber for his financial woes.

So what’s a mayor to do when faced with such an upsetting situation? He’s going to take another run at regulating Uber out of business in the city and handing all the business back to the cab companies. (New York Post)

Mayor de Blasio said Friday that his administration is working on new rules for regulating Uber and other for-hire vehicles — four days after a car service driver committed suicide in front of City Hall and blamed him and other politicians for not doing enough to protect his livelihood.

Speaking on WNYC radio, Hizzoner said issues like disability access and a surcharge to help fund the MTA needed to apply to all types of car services across the board.

“We have to find better ways to regulate the for-hire vehicle sector in general,” he said. “We have to come back and look at what is a single, comprehensive vision for the future of our for-hire vehicle sector that can make sense to everyone involved. That’s something we’re going to be working on in the coming months to see if we can put together.”

One of the drivers wrote his suicide note on the back of a summons he received for violating regulations about how and when drivers can pick up riders. More than anything else, though, the drivers had been facing similar financial distress because of competition from ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft.

But is that any excuse for suddenly trying to bring up the same failed regulatory moves which the city failed to pass before? Even the mayor admitted during a radio interview that there had to be “something else going on” with these men before they took their lives. That “something else” was mental illness.

I’m not trying to be insensitive to the families of these deceased drivers, but plenty of people face financial hardships due to changing employment situations and don’t resort to taking their own lives. As the foodservice industry moves toward more automation, low-income workers are losing their jobs. The introduction of modern assembly lines and welding robots put a lot of auto industry workers out on the streets. This is a story that goes all the way back to the eras of the original Luddites. The reality is that their industry remains stuck in an old model of business and keeps hoping that the government will bail them out by crushing the new competition.

The fact is that ride-sharing offers far better service than the old dispatch model used by cab companies. It keeps costs down, which customers appreciate, and competition through the app’s rating system pushes the drivers to keep their cars clean and be prompt and courteous. None of these are traits which the traditional cab companies are known for.

Rather than running crying to the mayor in the hopes that City Hall will force Uber and Lyft out of town or place hard limits on how many drivers can compete for our business, the cab companies need to fight back by improving their service. Nothing is stopping them from developing the technology to allow customers to track where their cab is and know when they can expect it to arrive. And they could readily offer a plan where customers can pay for their rides over their phones. This is simply the evolutioni of the industry on display. If you want to beat Uber… be better than Uber.