Mayor Bill de Blasio yesterday took steps to quickly put into effect a historic set of Taxi and Limousine Commission regulations that will combat congestion from Harlem to Houston by requiring high-volume for-hire vehicle app companies to more efficiently manage their fleets. These rules will preserve a valuable service for New Yorkers while providing better balance between for-hire services and other road users. The new rules were approved by the TLC on August 7, and Mayor de Blasio yesterday signed a finding of substantial need to expedite their publication in the City Record, as required by the City’s Administrative Procedures Act (CAPA). See here for the document. The rules will be in effect on Monday, August 12.
“For too long, the status quo has been gamed by companies who flood our streets, depress driver incomes and make it harder for the rest of us to get around,” said Mayor de Blasio. “Those days are over. The era of app companies’ exploitation of their drivers and our streets has come to an end. We will hold these companies accountable, and in doing so, we will reduce congestion and help drivers make ends meet.”
“These historic regulations show that just as app companies have used technology to bring consumers service in new ways, cities can challenge companies to use this same technology to combat congestion and climate change,” said Acting TLC Commissioner Bill Heinzen. “Combined with TLC’s landmark driver income protections, which are providing 85,000 app drivers with an average $500 extra per month, these rules confirm New York City’s support for workers is not just words, but actions.”
The regulations are the culmination of an intensive study by the TLC and the NYC Department of Transportation, which found that 30% of Manhattan Core traffic is for-hire services (FHVs), most of which work with apps like Uber and Lyft, and that these vehicles are cruising empty 41% of the time. The FHV fleet had tripled from under 40,000 vehicles in 2010 to over 120,000 vehicles in 2019, and greenhouse gas emissions from TLC-regulated fleets had grown 62% from 2013 to 2018. The study took place following August 2018 City legislation that paused the issuance of new FHV licenses while the City studied the problem and evaluated long-term policy solutions.
These rules give large app companies one year to bring their Manhattan Core cruising time – when drivers are working but not earning money – down to 31% during the peak hours. The regulations also continue the pause on issuance of new FHV licenses for one year, with exceptions for wheelchair accessible vehicles and fully electric vehicles. As a result of these rules, FHV-related traffic congestion below 96th Street during rush hours is projected to decrease by more than 20%.
Before the cap on non-accessible for-hire vehicles went into effect last summer, about 2,000 new vehicles were hitting the streets every month. An oversaturation of cars has meant a greater dilution of income and opportunity, and there has been a large pool of drivers that are eager for more work. Since the cap began, daily app trips have risen in the outer boroughs and Northern Manhattan, and wait times have dropped in neighborhoods across the city – with the largest decreases in waits in the Bronx and Staten Island.
The regulations include twice-yearly reviews and public reporting. The TLC will evaluate congestion, driver pay, and passenger service levels and can adjust policies as needed.
Benefits of the new policy:
- More than 20% decline in FHV traffic below 96th Street during rush hours
- Faster bus speeds in Manhattan
- More room for other road users, such as pedestrians and cyclists
- Less driving means fewer crash opportunities
- Further incentivizes growth in the wheelchair accessible FHV fleet, which has risen from 226 in August 2018 to 761 now
“Getting the balance right for riders and drivers alike requires us to bring down the number of cars on the road, limit the time they are cruising around empty on our streets, and ensure that drivers are paid enough to make ends meet. We’ve taken great strides in the last year, with cap on new licenses and the passage of my legislation to ensure that drivers are guaranteed a living wage. Extending the pause on for hire vehicles will ensure that we can continue to reclaim our streets from the insatiable growth of unaccountable app companies, which have severely increased congestion and badly undermined driver’s ability to learn a living,” said Council Member Brad Lander.
“I am thrilled that the TLC heard our call to extend the FHV cap, as well as created new cruising restrictions on app-based rideshare companies to help cut back on emissions and congestion by taking more idling passenger-less cars off the streets. These actions represent a step forward in reducing traffic across Manhattan, and I look forward to continuing the work to deliver economic justice to our city’s drivers serving New Yorkers across the five boroughs,” said Council Member Margaret S. Chin.
“For a workforce in an unprecedented crisis of poverty and debt, the vehicle cap has been lifesaving. It’s at the heart of our unity campaign for yellow, green, livery, black car, and Uber and Lyft drivers to finally come out of poverty wages by each earning more fares and burning less fuel. We still have so much work ahead of us, but as we’ve always said, without the cap, it would be impossible for drivers to earn more or to stabilize those earnings. We applaud the Mayor’s actions, and thank the TLC and DOT for their steadfast work,” said Bhairavi Desai, Executive Director of the 21,000-member New York Taxi Workers Alliance.
“We are thrilled to see that the TLC Commission and Mayor de Blasio decided to side with working people in the city of New York and approve the vehicle cap extension,” said Kyle Bragg, president of 32BJ SEIU. “From passengers who will see less congestion to families who will now have the stability that comes with proper incomes, this will only improve New York City. We are proud to stand in solidarity with app drivers today and will continue to advocate for protections for this important group of workers.”