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Bill de Blasio backs down on NYC Uber driver cap bill

Uber's stunning win is another public blow to de Blasio

Bill de Blasio and David Plouffe

David Plouffe’s photo by Warren Little/Getty Images; Bill de Blasio photo via Pix 11 News

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration announced yesterday that it is holding off on legislation that would cap the number of new licenses given to for-hire drivers while it conducted an environmental study gauging the impact the current swell of these vehicles have had on city traffic.

The move would have dealt a huge blow to services that use for-hire drivers for its services, such as Uber and Lyft.

“Today the administration, City Council and Uber have agreed to a framework that will advance the city’s vital policy goals for passengers, drivers and the public,” New York City’s First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris said in a statement. “It sets in motion a plan to guide a comprehensive and fair public response, driven by data, to the increase in for-hire vehicles. And it ensures that the future growth of this industry matches the values and the interests of New Yorkers.”

The decision to suspend the license cap was made just in time to preempt a City Council vote on the two measure, which was expected to take place on Thursday.

Under the agreement, a four-month long traffic study will be conducted as opposed to the originally proposed 14-month long environmental review.

According to Mr. Shorris’ statement, the deal requires Uber to share information for the study “above and beyond what has previously been provided, with safeguards to protect privacy,” and the service must maintain its current growth rate in the City.

“In addition to the traffic study, the City and transportation stakeholders will participate in a larger review of the entire taxi, FHV and livery industries, with a particular focus on revenue for public transit, consumer protections, driver and employee protections, and accessibility for people with disabilities. The cap legislation currently before the City Council will be tabled throughout the traffic study process.”

First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris' Statement on Uber

First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris’ Statement on Uber

On Thursday morning, the Mayor appeared on CBS This Morning to make it clear that his administration did not “cave” and can still cap the number of Uber vehicles under the agreement. (See video below.)

“We don’t take any option off the table,” he said. “If we ultimately believe there needs to be a cap or some kind of additional regulation, we’ll do that.”

Uber launched all-out campaign against the Mayor’s push with ads, Twitter spats, job fairs, and even the use of celebrities like Kate Upton to speak out against the Mayor.

And the PR campaign paid off.

The Response

Uber’s New York City General Manager, Josh Mohrer, said in a statement:

“We’re pleased to have reached an agreement with Mayor de Blasio’s administration and the City Council to collaborate on a joint transportation study and to work together on ways to continue expanding economic opportunity, mobility and transportation access in the city,” Mr. Mohrer said. “Together, we can build an even better, more reliable transportation system. This is great news for all New Yorkers, including Uber riders and drivers.”

Lyft also praised City Hall’s decision to table the driver cap in a statement:

“We thank the City Council for listening to our concerns about removing carpooling options, which we see as part of the solution to traffic congestion,” the company said. “We will continue working together with the city council and the TLC to build a more sustainable future for New York.”

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo told radio show Capitol Press Room:

“I don’t think that government should be in the business of trying to restrict job growth, I don’t believe you can restrict job growth,” Mr. Cuomo said. “I think if you try to say we are going to cap your job growth here they’ll go next-door and grow their jobs.”

The Verdict

While it’s easy to imagine how satisfying the mayor’s retreat after such a public spat with Uber must have been to Gov. Cuomo, no one could be more satisfied than Uber’s Chief Adviser, David Plouffe.

Mr. Plouffe, who was campaign manager for President Obama in 2008, knows a thing a two about political fights and was the best candidate to lead Uber in this public affair issue.

Watch Mr. Plouffe explain how his new private sector role does not differ much from his public service ideologies:

The real winner here might be Lyft, which got a couple of mentions from Mr. Plouffe on “CBS This Morning.” As Wired Magazine explained, the bill’s cap limits were based on current service size. If passed, Uber, which has 200,000 affiliated drivers in the city, would have been allowed to grow by 1% adding 200 drivers. And Lyft, with its 120 affiliated drivers, would have been allowed to grow 5 percent, adding only 6 drivers.

In true de Blasio fashion, the mayor did not go down easily and appeared on “CBS This Morning” to remind everyone that while he is backing off for now, he can still cap Uber’s growth in the city if and when he sees fit.

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P.S. After watching Mr. Plouffe’s appearance on “CBS This Morning,” did you happen to catch him say: “…the Bronx, and the Queens”?

The Queens? Just saying…

 

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