A campaign waged by Uber to dissuade the New York City Council from affirming a one-year freeze on new licenses has failed.
The 51-member council voted Wednesday afternoon to enact the freeze, becoming the first in the nation to make such a move. The legislation also allows the city to set a minimum pay rate for drivers. Exempted from the freeze are new wheelchair-accessible vehicles. Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to approve the legislation.
The #DontStrandNYC campaign by Uber included a dramatic TV commercial that ends with the proclamation, “We need to tell the city council, don’t strand New Yorkers.” It features several customers who are unable to get a taxi cab, including a distraught black woman.
That’s the reason that civil rights groups and champions, including the Rev. Al Sharpton, urged the council to not enact the freeze. They say blacks and other minorities often have a harder time hailing a yellow taxi cab.
The spot menacingly insinuates that it will be harder to find a ride via an app because of the ban, but the reality is all current drivers will not be affected. It simply halts new licensees for one year while the city studies the situation of how to deal with a rising number of app-based cars.
Critics of the ban say the cap will result in higher fares and reduced service in the outer boroughs.
“The city’s 12-month pause on new vehicle licenses will threaten one of the few reliable transportation options while doing nothing to fix the subways or ease congestion,” according to an Uber statement.
The City Council fought back with its own information campaign, including trying to discern fact from fiction as to what the council hoped to do, including calling for minimum pay for drivers. One local resident responded to a tweet from City Council Speaker Corey Johnson: “I didn’t hear from you guys when yellow cabs were passing us on the street late at night, refuse to take us home, Uber made it easier for us, I’m from Harlem and will not vote for any politician who votes for this.”
The number of ride-hailing vehicles operating in the city has increased from 12,600 in 2015 to about 80,000 this year, according to the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission. Fewer than 14,000 yellow cabs operate in the city.