The City Council could vote to put a temporary cap on Uber's expansion as soon as Thursday, and yesterday the Daily News published an op-ed by Mayor de Blasio explaining why he supports the cap: to prevent Uber from "flooding" the streets of New York.
"Our goal is to ensure that our streets aren't flooded with tens of thousands more cars before we can stand up new rules to govern the marketplace," he wrote, running through a bulleted list of concerns: Unregulated Uber would mean more competition between drivers, and more surge pricing, he argued. More traffic, more carbon emissions, and more vehicles without mandatory wheelchair accessibility (50% of yellow cabs will be wheelchair accessible by 2020).
Under the proposed legislation, Uber would only be allowed to add 200 additional drivers to its platform between now and August 2016. The DOT and TLC argue that the cap, which would apply to all for hire vehicles, is necessary in order to conduct an accurate study of the FHV industry's environmental impact (their ranks have jumped 66% since 2011).
Uber counters that de Blasio is acting under pressure from taxi barons. (Bloomberg News reports that de Blasio received over $500,000 in campaign donations in 2013 for his mayoral campaign from the "traditional taxi and limousine industry.") Uber also says that the cap would force them to turn away 10,000 potential Uber drivers in the next year. This number is based off of Uber's calculation that they must hire hundreds of new drivers each week, to keep up with the 25,000 New Yorkers who join the platform on a weekly basis.
Yesterday's op-ed is the most the mayor has spoken up on the issue since legislation was proposed in June. Uber, meanwhile, has been explicit in targeting the mayor. Last Thursday, the app was updated in New York to include a "De Blasio" tab, which allows users to preview what wait times will look like (spoiler: very long), if the temporary cap legislation passes.
And on Wednesday, the company released a TV spot featuring Uber drivers. "I make more money, and get to spend more time with my family," says one. "When the mayor came in town, he promised to provide jobs," adds another.
Meanwhile, many have countered that "job" is a generous definition for what Uber provides to its drivers. "There are serious questions about how Uber treats its customers, its workers," said Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris in an e-mail to Uber supporters on Friday. (To which Uber's New York GM Josh Mohrer responded, point-for-point in an open letter.)
At a City Council hearing on the legislation last month, TLC commissioner Meera Joshi said dryly, "'Jobs' is a funny term. Jobs I associate with healthcare, vacation time, and pensions. These are streams of income, but they are not jobs."
On Tuesday, the company hosted a press conference at Sylvia's Restaurant in Harlem, with black community leaders who have expressed opposition to the cap, on the grounds that it will destroy those 10,000 jobs.
"Uber’s latest claim that the... legislation to cap its growth will 'affect communities of color' is appalling," said Jonathan Westin, Executive Director of New York Communities for Change, in a statement on Friday. "While Uber's CEO joins the billionaire's list, workers get scraps: low-wages, no health insurance, no unemployment benefits, and no job security."
Later today, Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez will reportedly rally against Uber at City Hall, with members of the New York Taxiworkers Alliance and the Transport Workers Union Local 100. Both of these groups are particularly concerned about increased competition for riders as the FHV industry continues to grow. (Bloomberg also notes that Rodriguez accepted over $8,500 in donations from the taxi industry in 2013.)