NYC Mayor De Blasio Retreats from Uber Fight

Published August 31, 2015

After months of fighting with the popular transportation-network company Uber, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is backing away from proposed restrictions on how many new drivers the company can hire.

As part of the compromise reached between de Blasio administration officials and Uber, the ridesharing company agreed to turn over geolocation data to the city to assist a planned four-month study on the service’s effect on city traffic patterns. 

Stated Goals, Real Goals

Jared Meyer, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, says the impact study is a front for future protectionist regulations.

“They’re not going to say they just want to protect taxis,” Meyer said. “Instead, what they’re saying is that they need to do an analysis on the impact of ridesharing.

“Ridesharing represents one percent of the cars coming into Manhattan every day,” Meyer said. “This is a small thing. De Blasio actually made it a cornerstone of his campaign for mayor to reduce traffic fatalities … so he really should be celebrating Uber.”

‘Pretty Beholden’ to Donors

Meyer says de Blasio is working to protect campaign donors’ interests, not the interests of the public.

“The main reason for the resistance to ridesharing is that de Blasio’s campaign got over half a million [dollars] in campaign contributions from the taxi industry and their bundlers,” Meyer said. “He’s pretty beholden to their interests.”

No ‘Good Basis’

Michael Munger, a professor of political science at Duke University, says regulating Uber in the name of reducing traffic is a smokescreen.

“I don’t think that there is either a good basis for saying that Uber is causing a problem greater than its benefits or a good basis for saying the ‘solution’ would address the problem, even if it did exist,” Munger said. 

‘Surge Pricing’ for Roads

Instead of restricting Uber’s growth, lawmakers could use free-market principles to reduce the city’s traffic jams, Munger says.

“There is a lot of traffic in Manhattan, of course,” said Munger. “The solution would be ‘surge pricing,’ [aimed at reducing] congestion. Manhattan is small, and it should be possible to place transponders around the roadways, and then charge for use of the roads. The advantage of that approach is that it would actually address the crowding problem, and using the road at peak hours would actually cost something, rationing the scarce resource much more effectively.”

Jeff Reynolds ([email protected]) writes from Portland, Oregon.

Internet Info:

Andrew T. Bond, “An App For That: Local Governments And The Rise Of The Sharing Economy,” Notre Dame Law Review: