NYC Mayor De Blasio Realizes His Plan To Kneecap Uber Was A Disaster, Backs Down

from the so-much-for-that dept

Earlier this week, we noted that NY City mayor Bill de Blasio appeared to pick a fight with Uber that he couldn't possibly win. The plan was to create a taxi medallion-like system for car hailing apps like Uber and Lyft, but which would cap the number of such cars that could be on the road. The PR campaign against this effort was tremendous (obviously, some of it pushed by Uber and Lyft -- but much of it by the happy users and drivers on those platforms). De Blasio and his staff apparently believed that there really wasn't popular support for these platforms, which was just wrong. As the negative publicity continued to mount, including having various celebrities weigh in on how stupid the plan was, it appears that de Blasio has backed down and agreed to drop the plan, at least for the time being.
The agreement brings a temporary end to a fractious struggle that had consumed City Hall for several days, and inundated parts of the city with mailers, phone calls, advertisements and even celebrity endorsements.

Under the agreement, according to three people familiar with the agreement, the city will conduct a four-month study on the effect of Uber and other for-hire vehicle operators on the city’s traffic and environment.
To save face, the mayor's office is also claiming that this is a "victory" because Uber agreed to share some data with the mayor's office about usage of the platform. However, this is pretty clearly a victory for Uber, its drivers and the people who use the service. There are some legitimate questions about how these companies operate and what they mean for the cities and residents where they exist, but this move, from the beginning, was clearly about paying back taxi cab companies who had supported de Blasio's election, rather than any legitimate concern for the city.

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jul 2015 @ 9:08pm

    comparison of environmental impact

    Taxi drives around until they see someone stick their hand up.
    Uber/Lyft waits for someone to use an app to page them.

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

    • icon
      toyotabedzrock (profile), 22 Jul 2015 @ 11:47pm

      Re: comparison of environmental impact

      I have never seen an Uber sitting still they also drive around.

      There is just too many cars on the streets I have actually driven often in the city and know.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Jul 2015 @ 12:20am

        Re: Re: comparison of environmental impact

        Of course you see them driving, either go to a person who requested their services, or taking that person somewhere, or maybe just the driver going home. What you will not see them doing is driving around looking for a high, because if the app was not used to summons them they will not be paid.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Jul 2015 @ 7:29am

        Re: Re: comparison of environmental impact

        By that logic cats don't poop. I've always seen them walking around, sleeping you know, cat stuff. Never pooping.

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

      • icon
        Derek Kerton (profile), 23 Jul 2015 @ 9:36am

        Re: Re: comparison of environmental impact

        Why on earth would an Uber driver circle around?

        Because they want to burn gas, use money, and have to work (drive), when they could be pulled over and resting? No.

        Uber drivers would only choose to drive empty to:
        - pick up their fare
        - go to a hotter area
        - go home
        - be off duty, running personal errands

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Jul 2015 @ 1:26pm

        Re: Re: comparison of environmental impact

        Uhm ... how do you tell the Uber driver apart from a regular driver? Or do you mean on the app? If so then yes, they are probably driving to either pick someone up or to take someone to their destination.

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

  • identicon
    ponked in the undercarriage, 22 Jul 2015 @ 9:56pm

    liason in silence

    You have been ponked in the undercarriage pushy.

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

  • icon
    Ray Trygstad (profile), 23 Jul 2015 @ 2:16am

    Economic model for cab medallions

    I think I ask this question every time New York cabs come up. What economic model makes it reasonable for folks to pay in the range of $800,000 to a million dollars for an NYC cab medallion? How long do you have to run a cab under the medallion to recoup that? It looks to me like it would have to be several hundred years.

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

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 23 Jul 2015 @ 4:45am

      Re: Economic model for cab medallions

      That. The city should give the amount paid for the medallions back and allow these apps to do their jobs, which seem much more efficient. And it would be fair to the cab drivers as well.

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

      • icon
        pixelpusher220 (profile), 23 Jul 2015 @ 7:11am

        Re: Re: Economic model for cab medallions

        'Efficient' means some people don't get served because they aren't a profitable customer.

        Taxis in a major city are effectively a piece of the transportation infrastructure. In DC, a single company is contracted to serve Dulles airport. Why? Because it isn't profitable for a lone taxi to sit at the airport at 3am on the off chance someone might need a ride.

        It's an edge case, but when applying infrastructure to a city you need to serve everyone, subsidizing the expensive with the cheap.

        If Uber is able to cherry pick only the profitable (efficient) customers the existing Taxis end up with only the unprofitable customers and go out of business. Now what? Do you *require* Uber to have people standing by at the airport at 3am? Hell is there even anyone on call at 3am? At what price?

        These are questions nobody here seems to ever want to answer in the defense of the new and shiny.

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

        • icon
          tqk (profile), 23 Jul 2015 @ 8:06am

          Re: Re: Re: Economic model for cab medallions

          These are questions nobody here seems to ever want to answer in the defense of the new and shiny.

          Pot, kettle, black. Uber and Lyft are demonstrating how inefficient the existing taxi business is, and how lazy it's been just sitting on its laurels. 0.75 million bucks for a medallion? Taxis sitting around all over the place, burning fuel, waiting for rush hour?

          Now, when your flight's coming in to land, you can order a ride on your cellphone. Others will too. They'll be waiting for you all when you get out.

          No need to bribe De Blasio to prop up a failing business model that rewards taxi companies, exploits the drivers who can't afford 0.75 million bucks for a medallion, and encourages rude and abusive behaviour since the drivers are pissed at the situation being way outside their control.

          I never take taxis. I do think this situation is long overdue. Hopefully, this's going to produce fewer bribes for De Blasio too, forcing him to work harder. Maybe he'll have to go back to caring a little about us instead of his captive sugar daddies he's been extorting by manipulating our democratic power.

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

          • icon
            pixelpusher220 (profile), 23 Jul 2015 @ 8:48am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Economic model for cab medallions

            Never said the current system was great or efficient.

            But...

            "Now, when your flight's coming in to land, you can order a ride on your cellphone"

            At 3AM? What if no Uber drivers feel like working that shift? Maybe they do, but you can't just leave it up to chance. Edge cases matter and you still haven't answered how to handle them except waving your hands saying it will be ok.

            The problem of having no taxis available at all hours was solved via regulations and the medallion systems. Just solve that problem with Uber and it's a non-issue. Problem is nobody seems willing to do so.

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 23 Jul 2015 @ 1:33pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Economic model for cab medallions

              "What if no Uber drivers feel like working that shift?"

              What if no taxi cab driver feels like working that shift?

              "Maybe they do, but you can't just leave it up to chance."

              I don't see how this is leaving it up chance anymore than with taxi cab drivers. Taxi cab drivers may also wish not to work those hours.

              Leave it up to market forces.

              "The problem of having no taxis available at all hours was solved via regulations"

              citation proving

              A: That there ever was a problem
              B: That regulations 'solved' it
              C: That the current situation is recreating the problem

              Because this looks like a bunch of madeup nonsense that came from your imagination.

              "Problem is nobody seems willing to do so."

              No, the problem is you're making things up.

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

        • icon
          Derek Kerton (profile), 23 Jul 2015 @ 9:42am

          Re: Re: Re: Economic model for cab medallions

          Except the evidence shows that Ubers are MORE accessible than regular cabs, at ALL hours. Recent studies have looked at how Uber is even better at classic edge cases, like low income neighborhoods.

          http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/07/uber-vs-taxis-who-does-better-low-income -neighborhoods

          There may be bias in that research, but it is supported by scads of anecdotal evidence from black passengers, who say they can finally get a ride as easily as anyone else.

          Also... The CEOs son, a black man, always used Uber cause he could never catch a cab. Your class dont matter when it comes to NYC cabs.— NAP QUEEN (@thecityofjules) July 23, 2015

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

          • icon
            pixelpusher220 (profile), 23 Jul 2015 @ 9:54am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Economic model for cab medallions

            from the study

            "Would it hold in the small number of very-high-crime neighborhoods we excluded in order to protect our riders? Would it hold after dark?"

            So it doesn't answer the actual question I asked...the edge cases that public infrastructure has to cover.

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 23 Jul 2015 @ 1:37pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Economic model for cab medallions

              Taxi cabs are not 'public infrastructure' they are for profit businesses. and the burden is on you to prove that Uber is bad for these so called 'edge' cases and you, so far, have done nothing to prove this.

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 23 Jul 2015 @ 1:49pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Economic model for cab medallions

              "So it doesn't answer the actual question I asked...the edge cases that public infrastructure has to cover."

              No, it does answer the question

              "Except the evidence shows that Ubers are MORE accessible than regular cabs"

              See, these are the exact edge cases you are talking about. There are many 'edge' cases where regular taxicab drivers are not available where Uber is available. This is evidence that you are wrong, that Uber provides 'more' coverage during those edge cases than regular cabs. I still await your evidence to the contrary because, so far, you have provided absolutely none.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 23 Jul 2015 @ 2:26pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Economic model for cab medallions

            If he was really interested in the cases that people aren't covered he would be against artificially limiting supply since doing so necessarily highers prices and results in more cases that people aren't served. But he isn't interested in that. He's interested in limiting competition because he's a shill.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 23 Jul 2015 @ 1:46pm

          Re: Re: Re: Economic model for cab medallions

          "In DC, a single company is contracted to serve Dulles airport. Why? Because it isn't profitable for a lone taxi to sit at the airport at 3am on the off chance someone might need a ride."

          And many of those contracted taxi cab companies often have difficulty covering certain hours as well. Often times drivers take off and the companies can't find replacement drivers. It is highly unlikely those that are contracted are going to be able to always provide 24 hour coverage, especially during unprofitable hours that no one wants to work. No, these contracted taxicab companies are for profit businesses and will also likely choose to cover the most profitable hours the most and neglect the least profitable ones just as well. At least in most cases that's how traditional taxicab companies work. Don't confuse them with 'public infrastructure'.

          However, a free market (as in Uber) will dictate the prices during times that people are less willing to work so that the price will reflect the fact that people are less willing to work and the customer will just have to pay more to get someone.

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

        • icon
          JMT (profile), 23 Jul 2015 @ 6:18pm

          Re: Re: Re: Economic model for cab medallions

          "In DC, a single company is contracted to serve Dulles airport."

          This is common practice in airports around the world, as it's a great way for airport companies and taxi companies to gouge passengers with higher prices. Until the likes of Uber came along, passengers had no choice but to suffer these cozy, anti-competitive arrangements.

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

      • icon
        Derek Kerton (profile), 23 Jul 2015 @ 9:49am

        Re: Re: Economic model for cab medallions

        Ninja

        But the city did not get all the revenue for the medallions. Many are re-sold on secondary markets, and investors and speculators made the capital gain.

        I say tough. Lots of capital investments drop in value. That's kinda the downside of capitalism and investment. I've bought shares of companies that went to zero. Why did they go to zero? Well, because other better technologies came along and disrupted their markets.

        So it is with Medallions. They are dropping in value because something better came along. Only difference is the gov't is involved, so those people who invested are crying to gov't to stop their losses. Tough shit.

        What if you owned Blackberry when iPhone came out, or Diamond Rio when the iPod? What if I invested in a travel agency just before the Internet messed up their valuations? What if I bought stock in Garmin or Tom Tom right before Google offered nav for free on Android? Tough crap. Private investors need to tale their losses.

        The smartest investors will have sold their medallions a while ago, anticipating the disruption. But somebody loses. Why should they have an unlimited upside, with a guaranteed downside protection from the city?

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

    • icon
      Teamchaos (profile), 23 Jul 2015 @ 7:39am

      Re: Economic model for cab medallions

      http://blog.priceonomics.com/post/47636506327/the-tyranny-of-the-taxi-medallions

      Drivers pay for the use of the cabs. Working through some of the numbers in the cited article, it look like the cab company gets a return of approx $100K per year (figuring 3 shifts at $100 per shift) in Boston where the medallions cost $625K for about a 16% return on the investment in the medallion.

      There is also the value of the medallion as an investment, which has risen over 6000% since 1970 in NYC. In contrast the S&P has risen a bit of 1000% during the same period.

      Medallions used to be an excellent investment. Which is what the hubbub is all about. It has nothing to do with safety, traffic congestion, etc. It's all about the Benjamins.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Jul 2015 @ 2:02pm

        Re: Re: Economic model for cab medallions

        and lets not forget that the medallions are good for the medallion owners and not the cab drivers. They're bad for the drivers because they require them to share most of the profits with the owners.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jul 2015 @ 3:43am

    Politicians will take a victory, even if it is only symbolic and has no real value. Optics...

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

  • identicon
    Joel Coehoorn, 23 Jul 2015 @ 6:43am

    How to beat Uber

    If the mayor really wants to "kneecap" Uber, all he really has to do is multiply the number of medallions by 10, and maybe ease up a few other regulations. A dedicated taxi, maintained as part of a fleet, should easily be able to get vehicle costs well below Uber. The only reason this doesn't happen now is lack of competition caused by the limited supply of the medallions, and also perhaps union-inflated driver pay.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Jul 2015 @ 7:02am

      Re: How to beat Uber

      So what you are saying is that the Taxi Companies & Unions have intentionally put themselves at a disadvantage?

      You don't say....

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

      • icon
        pixelpusher220 (profile), 23 Jul 2015 @ 7:56am

        Re: Re: How to beat Uber

        Actually no, the City...wanting everyone to served at a reasonable price...instituted regulations to further that goal.

        But nice try to bring unions into this.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 23 Jul 2015 @ 8:41am

          Re: Re: Re: How to beat Uber

          Nearly all medallions are owned by large taxi companies. They don't want there to be more medallions because that would increase competition and lower prices. The unions are in agreement.

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

        • icon
          John Fenderson (profile), 23 Jul 2015 @ 9:29am

          Re: Re: Re: How to beat Uber

          "the City...wanting everyone to served at a reasonable price...instituted regulations to further that goal."

          I don't think that was the goal at all. If it was, though, it's failed miserably.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 23 Jul 2015 @ 2:11pm

          Re: Re: Re: How to beat Uber

          That doesn't make sense and goes against basic economic theory. Artificially limiting the supply of something raises the price not lowers it.

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

  • identicon
    nygrump, 23 Jul 2015 @ 8:57am

    toyotabedzrock: try parking in manhattan, you'll see uber cars taking up space after space, or they are driving around lcogging up the streets.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jul 2015 @ 9:42am

    Uber (and others like it, Airbnb, delivery services and others soon to follow) are interesting companies. One of their biggest advantages is that they do not follow current laws. Employees vs. contractors? Insurance laws (think your part time Uber driver has commercial insurance?) and more.

    Regulations were put in place for a reason, some to raise money for the government, others for safety and service reasons. Should these new companies be able to step around those regulations?

    One fact is that the government will always get its money. If it is cut in one place, the government will get it from somewhere else.

    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
Techdirt Gear
Show Now: Takedown
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.