NYC Mayor Picks Fight With Uber That He Cannot Win

from the and-will-lose-big-time dept

NY City Mayor Bill de Blasio has apparently decided to pick a fight with Uber -- a move that has already backfired and appears to be getting worse by the day. He's been pushing a proposal, obviously put together in support of legacy taxicab owners, that would limit the number of such car-hailing drivers allowed in the city. Basically, it would take the ridiculous taxi medallion system and apply it to these new services, limiting supply, keeping prices high and not serving the public very well at all. Uber responded forcefully last week by adding an amusing "de Blasio" feature to its service, showing riders how much longer they'd have to wait for a car if the plan moves forward.

The story is getting more and more attention, and it's becoming clear that this has become personal for de Blasio, for reasons that are unclear. He can't win this fight and it's only making him look worse and worse. Not only that, but he is apparently threatening other "business" groups to "stay out" of the fight, threatening retaliation if they didn't stay away:
Mayor de Blasio bullied business groups to stay out of the Uber debate in the weeks leading up to the City Council vote this week on controversial bills to curtail new licenses for e-hail cars.

Deputy Mayor Tony Shorris called Partnership for New York City’s Kathy Wylde and the Association for a Better New York’s Bill Rudin to alert them to the bills — and to threaten them to stay on the sidelines, sources said.

“Their message is, ‘This isn’t your fight. Stay out of this and we’re not going to bother you,’ ” said a political source familiar with the outreach. The implication was that if the groups defied the mayor, City Hall would “limit your business opportunities,” he said.
Meanwhile, it appears that the out of touch de Blasio and his staff have absolutely no clue how widely Uber is used and how popular it is, insisting that it's just a small group of tech elites who use the service:
City Hall doesn’t buy the notion that Uber is growing fast enough for a cap to disrupt the service.... And the mayor’s circle also doesn’t believe that Uber is broadly popular, or represents anything most New Yorkers care about.

“It’s a boutique side issue,” said a top City Hall ally. “There’s a small set of excited tech people who are reading Mashable and might think the mayor isn’t innovative enough.”
How can one be mayor of New York City and not realize that how people get around the city is a major issue to the public, and that Uber is increasingly one of the preferred ways of getting around. Furthermore, it appears that de Blasio's people are misreading their own data to argue that this cap on drivers makes sense.

And, of course, it's not just the riders that should concern de Blasio, but the many people now making a living as drivers for these various services.

When running for mayor, de Blasio got strong support from the taxi drivers -- and many are seeing this as his repayment of that debt. But, going against what the public wants -- especially when it comes to helping get people around more efficiently -- seems like a huge miscalculation on the part of de Blasio. Even for people who think that Uber's practices are problematic (and this move impacts all the other companies in the space as well...), it's hard to see de Blasio's move as anything but trying to raise prices and limit options for the public for no good reason at all.

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Jul 2015 @ 11:32am

    People still read Mashable?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    psiu, 20 Jul 2015 @ 11:39am

    I can see clearly now

    "..and it's becoming clear that this has become personal for de Blasio, for reasons that are unclear."

    Isn't it usually the piles of money that an entrenched legacy industry is shoving into dark holes?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 20 Jul 2015 @ 12:32pm

      Re: I can see clearly now

      No, it is the piles of money that Uber isn't shoving into dark holes.

      They are the odd ones out not following the rules for doing business in Blasio's city.

      Election coffers abhor a vacuum.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Jul 2015 @ 11:43am

    The mayor can't have it both ways. Either Uber is a blip on the radar and it's not necessary to put caps on the number of Uber drivers available or Uber is widely popular, the customers/citizens are voting with their dollars, and the mayor has no business messing with their business.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 20 Jul 2015 @ 7:07pm

      Re:

      You are overlooking the third option. The mayor honestly considers Uber irrelevant. But he is not letting personal opinions keep him from delivering the job he is bribed for. The next election campaign wants to be financed as well, and why should people with a vested interest pay for a candidate acting on his own judgment?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Jul 2015 @ 12:00pm

    Why doesn't Uber spend some money and buy a politician...

    I am sure Uber has more money than NY taxi companies. Why don't they just outbid them when buying a NY politician... Oh wait maybe that is what de Blast-U is trying to force a bidding war. Mike the mayor may just win this one!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    RightShark, 20 Jul 2015 @ 12:12pm

    Clarity

    "this has become personal for de Blasio, for reasons that are unclear. "
    .
    .
    .
    "When running for mayor, de Blasio got strong support from the taxi drivers "


    The reason has been cleared up.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Jul 2015 @ 12:32pm

    ha ha ha ha ha

    Eat It New York City, you voted this clown in... may your travel fees & wait times ever be NOT in your favor!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    NYC Resident, 20 Jul 2015 @ 12:35pm

    Do you not get it?

    The reason the medallion system exists is to limit the amount of cars in Manhattan during business hours. The city cannot handle the traffic a bunch of Uber drivers cruising for fares will generate. Don't see how this will help when your Uber driver is stuck in traffic for an hour trying to pick you up when the UN General Assembly is in town. Until someone manages to buy legislation to put congestion fee into effect, all Uber is doing is contributing to a huge problem.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Jul 2015 @ 12:44pm

      Re: Do you not get it?

      The city cannot handle the traffic a bunch of Uber drivers cruising for fares will generate.

      You are spreading false Information, as Uber/Lyft drivers are not allowed to cruise to look for fares, but can only go to pick up people who book their service. Therefore they park up if they do not have a booking.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      z! (profile), 20 Jul 2015 @ 1:06pm

      Re: Do you not get it?

      I don't think this is the original reason; back in the 1930's the concern was about car maintenance and drivers, not congestion downtown.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 20 Jul 2015 @ 2:20pm

      Re: Do you not get it?

      The reason the medallion system exists is to limit the amount of cars in Manhattan during business hours.

      That's the official reason given. But studies for years have shown that it's bullshit and that you could increase the number of cabs in the city, which would decrease costs and increase the ability to get around and the city never budged. It became clear that the medallion system was about keeping competition limited.

      The city cannot handle the traffic a bunch of Uber drivers cruising for fares will generate.

      And yet... it has. After years of no increase in medallions, with current medallion owners claiming any increase would kill traffic flow in NYC, Uber showed up, added thousands of cars... and there was no serious issue.

      Don't see how this will help when your Uber driver is stuck in traffic for an hour trying to pick you up when the UN General Assembly is in town.

      I see you've bought into the propaganda.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Amal, 20 Jul 2015 @ 5:28pm

        Re: Re: Do you not get it?

        Mike,

        Appreciate the article. Can you link to said bullshit concluding studies?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 21 Jul 2015 @ 4:41am

        Re: Re: Do you not get it?

        How many of those "new" uber cars are actually new though? I thought that they were specifically hiring drivers who ALREADY had livery licenses. They aren't adding thousands of cars (or jobs as their PR campaign is now blasting), they're just adding existing drivers to their service.

        Personally I hate both sides of this argument. I think as a city we need to decide that cabs Are not the answer and instead focus on getting out asshat of a governor to stop stealing from public transit.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Jul 2015 @ 10:36pm

      Re: Do you not get it?

      [citation needed]

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Jul 2015 @ 1:02pm

    If it is a boutique service that is only for a small subset of travelers, there is no point in calling it. It's going to be small.

    Caps only have an impact if it's actually going to large

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Jul 2015 @ 1:47pm

    Regulate ALL the things!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Jul 2015 @ 1:54pm

    What are "legacy" cab owners? And how are they any different from current cab owners?

    Or are you saying that Uber drivers are indeed cab drivers; which of course would mean they're governed by the same laws as other cab drivers...

    Whoops!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Rich Fiscus (profile), 20 Jul 2015 @ 4:06pm

    City Hall doesn’t buy the notion that Uber is growing fast enough for a cap to disrupt the service.... And the mayor’s circle also doesn’t believe that Uber is broadly popular, or represents anything most New Yorkers care about


    Let me see if I've got this straight. His argument appears to be, "Pass this because it won't actually affect anyone in any way." He'd probably be better off with, "Pass this to make sure my cut of the money that New York cabbies are practically stealing from you."

    A corrupt politician is one thing, but I draw the line at stupid.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Jul 2015 @ 5:57pm

    Sounds like a segway into a congestion tax

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    toyotabedzrock (profile), 20 Jul 2015 @ 6:56pm

    Have u ever been to NYC? There are already too many cabs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 21 Jul 2015 @ 12:20am

      Re:

      Yes, I have for a couple computer shows, and "too many cabs" is not on my list of complaints... at all. Over three days of the show, we managed to get a cab once. Would have appreciated Uber had I known about it at the time.

      What was at the top of my list of complaints? The $50 hamburger at the hotel restaurant. Good thing we had fans of ours at the computer show take us out to dinner after that first day. That was interesting in itself. This fan had a ratchet on the nut holding his steering wheel in the car, and he would take the wheel with him inside when not in the car. We went into some part of the city for dinner, triple parked in front of a hydrant, went down a filthy alley, knocked on an unmarked door on some building, and there was the nicest Chinese restraunt I've ever eaten at. Seriously, I don't know how people learn of these places, but the food was out of this world, and cheap!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Seegras (profile), 21 Jul 2015 @ 1:54am

      Re:

      Apparently around 13'500 cabs, and 63'000 for-hire vehicles.

      Which tells me that there seems to be a market insufficiently served by cabs...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Jul 2015 @ 8:01pm

    We can probably assume that by taking such a fatal position as being in opposition to the massive and exponentially growing userbase of Uber that Mayor de Blasio must not have higher political ambitions.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer

Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.