Uber Says NYC License Cap Hinges on Bogus Traffic Data

MANHATTAN (CN) – Contesting a limit on how many ride-share car licenses it gets in the Big Apple, Uber claims in court that New York City is blaming it for traffic-congestion problems, without supporting data.

Uber brought the lawsuit Friday in Manhattan Supreme Court with attorneys from the law firm Boies Schiller Flexner LLP. 

Accusing the city of adopting a “ban first, study later” approach, the 50-page complaint takes aim at Local Law 147, which imposes a one-year ban on the issuance of for-hire vehicle licenses, followed by future caps as deemed necessary by the Taxi and Limousine Commission.

Uber says that the one-year cap oversteps the city council’s statutory power under New York state law, which grants cities the power to cap taxicabs but not app-based or other types of for-hire vehicle.

While the law purports to address the problem of traffic congestion in Manhattan’s Central Business District, Uber argues that the only official report issued by the city found that the principal causes of congestion – growth in population, tourism, pedestrians, construction activity, and deliveries – did not include for-hire vehicles.

Uber argues that the cap is anti-competitive and “will have a disproportionate impact on residents outside of Manhattan who have long been underserved by yellow taxis and mass transit” in the outer-borough areas where most Uber trips occur.

“The city has not identified any benefits to competition that would result from restricting supply through a FHV cap, and there are none,” Uber’s lawsuit says.

Uber’s attorneys also argue that New York City could not constitutionally give the legislative power as to whether to impose a cap and what cap to impose to Taxi and Limousine Commission because the decision would be an exercise of legislative power that the city may not delegate away from the elected City Council to an unelected administrative agency.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio initially tried to limit the number of Ubers in Manhattan in 2015, but ended up quickly dropping the proposed cap and agreeing instead to conduct a four-month study on the effect of Uber and other for-hire vehicle operators on New York’s traffic.

Uber’s lawsuit references a recent de Blasio radio appearance on WYNC, in which the mayor celebrated the one-year cap and vouched for ongoing limits in the future.

Mayor de Blasio’s deputy press secretary Seth Stein responded to the lawsuit in a statement Friday. “No legal challenge changes the fact that Uber made congestion on our roads worse and paid their drivers less than a living wage,” Stein said. “The city’s new laws aim to change that.”

Reflecting tensions between the local New York City government and global technology corporations, Uber’s lawsuit was filed one day after Amazon announced its withdrawal from plans to build a headquarters in Queens, citing opposition from local politicians.

%d bloggers like this: