The Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) voted Wednesday morning to maintain the cap on app-based for-hire vehicles and pass new regulations limiting their driving time in Manhattan.
“I do not want to see a city overrun only by Uber and Lyft,” TLC commissioner Nora Constance Marino said during the brief meeting. “I want us to do everything we can to prevent that from happening and keep the small mom-and-pop businesses thriving.”
The original year-long cap that stopped the TLC from issuing new FHV licenses went into effect last August. There are roughly 86,000 FHVs registered to drive on city streets. Today's vote extends the cap indefinitely, and restricts how much time drivers can spend "cruising" (i.e, driving without passengers) in Manhattan below 96th Street. The goal is to cut empty cruising time down to 31 percent from the current average of 41 percent and, in turn, help free up the streets.
One recent study found that FHVs account for more than 50 percent of traffic on some of Manhattan’s busiest streets.
Electric and wheel-chair accessible cars are exempt, as are the city's 13,587 yellow taxis.
The Independent Drivers Guild (IDG), made up of FHV drivers, accused the TLC of defying the will of “thousands of drivers” in approving the regulations. The IDG had urged the city to delay the vote until further research on the effects of the regulations.
“The city is gambling with the livelihoods of eighty thousand low income New York families by rushing through these rules,” Guild member Tina Raveneau said in a statement.
Some FHV drivers say that the cap harms their livelihood by forcing them to lease vehicles from companies charging high fees instead of being able to license their own cars, which then in turn encourages long shifts and hazardous working conditions.
At a hearing last month, one Uber driver described how she is forced to spend $2,000 a month to lease a Nissan Sentra. “It’s like creating a poverty pool,” that driver said. “The money that I make I have to give to these companies in order to drive. I wouldn’t want to drive as much as I do, but I have to be on the road to make the money just to pay for the vehicle.”
Lyft and Uber can be fined $1 million a month if caught violating the new regulations. The TLC will enforce the cruising provision by monitoring satellite data.
Mayor de Blasio was quick to praise Wednesday's vote.
“We will not let big corporations walk all over hardworking New Yorkers and choke our streets with congestion,” the mayor said in a statement. “Our caps have resulted in increased wages and families finally have some relief.”