The TLC has seized just shy of 500 Uber cars for conducting illegal street pickups since late April, when the commission started punishing street hails with seizures—a decidedly harsher punishment than the once-standard summons.
Uber has 19,000 affiliated vehicles in New York City, the Post reports, making up a whopping 30% of the entire for-hire industry. "This is a small group of bad actors and the violations add up to less than one hundredth of one percent of our rides over the same time period," said Uber spokesman Matt Wing.
Still, of the 938 total black cars seized since the policy change, Ubers make up more than 50% of them.
According to TLC spokesman Allan Fromberg, over 60% of the seizures took place at JFK and LaGuardia, with other significant chunks in the Upper East Side and East 50s in Manhattan. He added that TLC officers have noted a "marked increase" in instances of black car drivers picking up customers without prearranged trips, especially near airports.
In order to get his or her car back, a driver must pay a summons fee—between $400 and $1,000, according to the News—plus a towing fee of $185. If a driver opts for a hearing and is found not-guilty, Fromberg says, all tow-related fees are returned.
Wing stressed, "Street hails are not permitted on the Uber platform—period." However, consequences from Uber vary case by case—especially since drivers are not required to notify their employer when a seizure takes place. According to Wing, depending on the severity of the violation, a driver might be given a warning, a temporary deactivation, or a permanent deactivation. It "depends on the instance."
Bhairavi Desai of the New York Taxiworkers Alliance represents both Uber and Taxi drivers. She interprets the current crackdown as proof of an extremely competitive industry that compels drivers to compete illegally for business. “I think it’s honestly a reflection of the oversaturation of the vehicles, and the desperation everyone is feeling on the streets to earn a living,” she told the Post.