Uber drivers protest possible new Taxi and Limousine Commission oversight in New York

Kemberly Richardson Image
Thursday, May 28, 2015
Uber drivers protest possible new oversight
Kemberly Richardson reports on a possible Taxi and Limousine Commission oversight for Uber drivers

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Uber and Lyft are pushing back against a New York City effort to regulate app-based ride-hailing services.

The proposal before the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission would require car services that riders can book with their smartphones to comply with many of the rules that govern the yellow cabs with which they compete.

The proposed rule changes would address fares, the availability of wheelchair-accessible cars and restrictions on picking up passengers at airports. San Francisco-based Uber and Lyft say the regulations would discourage innovation.

A few dozen drivers in black shirts protested outside the taxi commission's Manhattan headquarters before a hearing on Thursday. They chanted: "We love Uber!"

"The TLC is coming from a good place but the way they are writing the rule is very, very problematic," said Josh Mohrer, the head of Uber New York.

And so the concerned Uber drivers set up shop outside headquarters while inside, officials listened to both sides during a public hearing.

The TLC is looking at a set of rules that would apply to app based car services, It says the guidelines focus on safety, accountability and transparency.

Right now there's a explosion in the market of these types of for hire vehicle services. Uber and Lyft are among the more popular ones.

The TLC says in order to better regulate this ever increasing segment of the market, it must make what it calls minor adjustments to existing regulations.

"We want more apps in New York City, we think these rules enable that to happen. There's nothing in there that's restrictive, there's nothing in there that should pose a barrier of entry to any app that wants to legally play in the New York City for hire transportation industry," said Ryan Wanttaja of the TLC.

The proposed rules address everything from surge pricing to airport picks ups and licensing fees, and require these companies to give the TLC a heads up before they make crucial changes to their app.

But Mohrer says that's simply not realistic.

"Every time there's an app update, which you know happens a lot every week, really they would want to see that app before it goes into the market," he said. "It would stifle innovation and hold Uber to a different standard than other black car companies."

Uber cars, often black sedans that can be summoned with smartphone apps, now outnumber the yellow taxis that city riders have hailed for generations.

There are now 14,088 registered Uber cars compared with 13,587 yellow cabs.

There are about 440,000 yellow cab rides a day, compared to just 20,000 to 30,000 Uber rides. That's because Uber drivers often own their own cars and work less than 40 hours a week, while most yellow taxis are owned by cab companies, have more than one driver and are on the road close to 24 hours a day.

"Yellow cab rides significantly outstrip the number of black car rides," said Meera Joshi, chairwoman of the taxi commission. "So the number of their affiliated vehicles in and of itself doesn't paint a complete picture."

Uber was introduced in New York City in 2011 and has grown steadily in popularity, particularly among tech-savvy customers who are comfortable hailing rides through an app that shows when a car is on the way.

A customer can even follow its progress with a blip on a street map. Similar companies such as Lyft use apps to connect with riders.

Prices are comparable, but some Uber riders have complained about fare add-ons for larger vehicles and "surge pricing" during rush hour, bad weather or holidays.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.