This Time It’s Uber on the Defensive in Battle With New York

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The final time New York City tried to impose a cap on Uber’s autos, the rout was brutal. Uber launched a “de Blasio view” in its ride-hailing app, blaming lengthy wait occasions on Mayor Bill de Blasio. Celebrities like Ashton Kutcher and Kate Upton voiced their help for Uber on Twitter.

The mayor was compelled to back away from the plan in 2015.

Now, Uber is gearing up for an additional combat, this time over a proposal by the City Council for a yearlong cap on for-hire car licenses. But the political terrain has shifted considerably, and this time it’s Uber on the defensive.

Over the final three years, Uber and different ride-hail firms have added tens of hundreds of autos to New York’s roads, prompting rising alarm over congestion and low driver wages.

Uber’s status has additionally taken a beating over accusations of gender discrimination and harassment and different scandals. Its new chief govt, Dara Khosrowshahi, has tried to undertake a friendlier, extra cooperative method.

At the identical time, there have been indicators of a broader disillusionment with Silicon Valley in cities throughout the nation. New York can be shifting to rein in Airbnb, one other fashionable service that has threatened the lodge business.

On Friday, Corey Johnson, the City Council speaker, mentioned he was assured about passing the laws for a cap and different laws for the for-hire car business. Mr. Johnson desires to vote on the payments by Aug. eight.

“We aren’t taking away any service that is currently being offered to New Yorkers,” Mr. Johnson mentioned throughout a cellphone name with reporters. “We’re pausing the issuance of new licenses in an industry that has been allowed to proliferate without an appropriate check.”

New York is Uber’s largest United States market and the cap is seen as a major risk to its booming enterprise. Uber shortly signaled on Friday that it will push again aggressively in opposition to the proposal.

Uber views its military of riders as its greatest useful resource. The firm despatched an e-mail to thousands and thousands of shoppers that mentioned the Council’s laws would make Uber costlier and fewer dependable. It launched a $1 million advert marketing campaign and a hashtag #DontStrandNYC.

Uber’s leaders say there was one other vital change in New York in the final three years: The metropolis’s subways have descended right into a disaster and commuters have relied on Uber due to that.

“New Yorkers have been demanding that our leaders fix the subways; instead, they have decided to break Uber,” mentioned Josh Gold, a spokesman for the firm.

In a brand new advert, Uber argues that the app is required outdoors Manhattan, particularly for black passengers who’ve been turned away when hailing taxis in the previous. Uber additionally helps congestion pricing — a proposal to toll autos getting into Manhattan’s most congested neighborhoods — to cut back gridlock on metropolis streets.

Mr. de Blasio, who has opposed congestion pricing, voiced his help for the Council’s laws on Friday. In a radio interview, Mr. de Blasio criticized Uber for flooding the streets with autos.

“I do think what Speaker Johnson is saying is absolutely in the right direction and I think the Council is taking a strong view of a very, very serious issue and they’re trying to do something about it and I commend them for that,” Mr. de Blasio mentioned.

Mr. de Blasio talked about the recent spate of driver suicides in New York — one other issue that has targeted consideration on the business. Six skilled drivers have killed themselves in latest months, together with three taxi drivers, for causes which have included their monetary misery as the business has modified.

The New York Taxi Workers Alliance, a bunch that represents hundreds of taxi and Uber drivers, mentioned it supported the cap proposal. The group launched an announcement saying Uber’s rise had led to a “crushing race to the bottom and economic despair among a work force of over 100,000 drivers.”

Lyft, the second hottest ride-hail app in New York, joined Uber in criticizing the cap.

“This would take New York back to an era of standing on the corner and hoping to get a ride,” mentioned Adrian Durbin, a spokesman for Lyft.

Mr. Johnson can be urgent for a number of different new laws, together with a transfer to set minimum pay rules for drivers working for app providers. But some critics say the proposals is perhaps too late to cut back congestion. The variety of for-hire autos in New York has risen to greater than 100,000 autos, from about 63,000 in 2015, in line with the metropolis.

A cap would have fewer repercussions for ride-hail firms this time round as a result of they’ve already flooded the market with autos, mentioned Arun Sundararajan, a professor at New York University who has studied Uber.

“The fact that the cap was avoided in 2015 was very important for Uber and Lyft and others,” he mentioned.

Uber, which arrived in New York in 2011, has been recognized for its aggressive techniques and for pushing boundaries. But Mr. Sundararajan mentioned the concept of rolling out one other “de Blasio view” characteristic would undermine the firm’s try to indicate that it had grown up.

“I don’t think that kind of response would be consistent with Uber’s attempt to remake its image and project the image of a more mature company,” he mentioned.

Karen Hinton, who served as Mr. de Blasio’s press secretary throughout the 2015 cap try, mentioned that the proposed cap this time had extra momentum. In 2015, “I don’t think people were educated about it,” she mentioned. “In that three-year period, there has been much more research and dialogue about the good and bad elements of for-hire vehicles companies.”

Donovan Richards, Jr., a City Council member who represents a district on the metropolis’s jap edge in Queens, mentioned he was undecided. He favored the concept cap may ease visitors congestion, however he was involved that residents in boroughs outdoors Manhattan would see an hostile influence.

“For African-American males such as myself, it’s very hard to get a yellow cab in New York City, and I certainly want to hear from the taxi industry how they’re going to insure, when I put my hand out outside of City Hall, I can get a cab,” Mr. Richards mentioned.

Ben Kallos, a City Council member from Manhattan, mentioned that he deliberate to vote in opposition to the cap, though he favors different payments in the bundle meant to control the business. He mentioned that he was bothered by the concept that the cap would halt new licenses whereas finding out the business.

“The scientific method says we test our hypotheses before we act on them,” Mr. Kallos mentioned. “I don’t support any legislation that creates a solution before we know it actually fixes a problem.”

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