If you’re in New York City and you hail an Uber ride today, you’ll be greeted with a new option: “de Blasio.”
Click on it, and you’re shown a wait time that’s much longer than you’re probably used to, if you’re a frequent Uber user.
Tap the “see what happens” button, and you’re shown this message:
New York City mayor Bill de Blasio and the city council have proposed a freeze on growth for for-hire vehicle companies, which includes Uber. The city is conducting a study about congestion, traffic, and pollution.
If it were to become a law, it could severely kneecap Uber’s growth in New York, one of the company’s largest and most mature markets. Under the proposed bill, for-hire vehicle companies that have bases with 500 cars or more — which includes Uber — would only be able to increase their number of vehicles by 1% annually.
In Uber’s case, this means adding just 201 new drivers for the next year. Last year, the average wait time for an Uber vehicle in Manhattan was just 2 minutes and 25 seconds. In New York’s outer boroughs, it was 3 minutes and 8 seconds. Limiting the number of Uber drivers would invariably drive up wait times, and could lead to more of Uber’s much-dreaded surge pricing for customers if demand is high.
Proponents of the bill say it’s an effort to cut down on congestion and traffic in New York, according to the New York Post. In the past four years since Uber started operating in New York, 25,000 black cars have been introduced to New York’s streets. Today, New York is one of Uber’s biggest markets, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue annually. There are more Uber vehicles than taxis on New York City’s streets.
Uber is doubling down on fighting the proposed legislation. The company offered free UberPool rides to its New York customers to attend a pro-Uber protest at New York’s City Hall last month.
Uber has previously butt heads with New York’s Taxi & Limousine Commission. Earlier this year, the TLC briefly suspended 5 of Uber’s 6 NYC bases, a largely toothless punishment served when Uber refused to hand over ride records.
Between April 29 and June 15, NYC authorities seized 496 cars from Uber drivers taking illegal street hails, mostly at the three airports in the region. And in May, the TLC published a series of newly proposed rules for how for-hire vehicles like Uber can operate. Among the TLC’s proposals for companies like Uber is something that would prevent drivers from using Uber’s turn-by-turn directions while they’re driving a car.