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.