New York’s Proposed Cap on Uber and Lyft Drivers is an attack on Free Markets and Social Equity

Jeff Siegel

Written By Jeff Siegel

Posted July 31, 2018

It was 1:30 in the morning, and I was exhausted.

I had an interview with a band that was doing a show at the Kingsland in Brooklyn. It was a fantastic show and an absolute privilege to speak with some of the members of the Ukrainian metal band, Jinjer. But I can’t lie. I don’t keep the same late hours I used to. And when the show was over, I was ready to get back to my room and get some shut-eye.

Now this particular venue is not close to a subway stop, and cabs aren’t as ubiquitous here as you might find in Times Square. So I pulled out my phone, requested a Lyft driver, and within minutes I was on my way home.

Throughout my career, I’ve done a lot of traveling, and I must admit that my time on the road is much easier to today than it was just ten years ago because of companies such as Lyft and Uber. The convenience feels like a gift, and for the most part, I have find it to be a far more pleasant experience to use Uber or Lyft than to rely on a cab.

Of course, while my appreciation for these services is not unique, the ride sharing industry is not without controversy. The truth is, as ride sharing companies started taking market share from the taxi industry, they were quickly met with aggression, frivolous lawsuits, and hired goons to petition the government to save them from their own self-imposed extinction.

I’ll be honest. I don’t have much sympathy for the taxi industry. An industry, by the way, that became complacent in terms of providing good service because it didn’t have to. When you’re the only game in town, you have that privilege.

But boy did things change when Uber and Lyft showed up to the party.

Today, the taxi industry complains about how these ride-sharing companies don’t have to abide by the same draconian regulatory hurdles that taxi companies do. Of course, it was because of those regulatory hurdles that the taxi industry maintained a very comfortable monopoly. So I wasn’t surprised to learn last week that the New York City Council decided to consider legislation that would limit the number of ride-hailing vehicles on the streets.

The city argues that ride-sharing services have hurt the city’s yellow cab industry. An argument that really should have no relevance in a free market where competition is meant to dictate the winners and losers.

The city has also argued that an increase in ride-sharing has intensified the city’s traffic problem. If this is true, then one could argue that this truism is the result of the city’s residents finding Uber and Lyft to be more efficient than other forms of transportation – particularly mass transit, where not a day goes by that someone isn’t late for work because there’s some new problem with the subway.

If the city really wanted to address the traffic problem, it would invite the private sector in to fix the city’s mass transit system, which would likely incentivize the city’s daily commuters.

Now in addition to the proposed cap being anti-free market, the NAACP recently made a valid point while arguing that this is also something that would adversely affect black and Latino populations which are oftentimes refused service by the city’s yellow cab industry. There’s a lot of truth to this.

The bottom line is that what the city of New York is proposing is something that will reduce employment in the city, give an unfair advantage to the city’s yellow cab industry, and reinforce social inequities.

The city of New York has plenty to deal with right now. Attacking an industry that has provided a boost to employment numbers while offering commuters a “better mousetrap,” is absurd. It reeks of special interest shenanigans and bureaucratic buffoonery.

The good people of New York deserve better.

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