The battle between New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and ridesharing service Uber over the mayor’s proposal to cap the company’s growth in the city continues as de Blasio says the city needs to study Uber’s impact on the traffic patterns and Uber higher ups decry the cap as politically motivated.
To the App-Based Drivers Association in Seattle, the cap doesn’t sound like such a bad idea.
“Drivers don’t make more money when there’s more cars on the road,” says association business representative Dawn Gearhart -- at least not in Seattle, she adds.
The App-Based Drivers Association is a Teamsters union organization. Teamsters has other such associations in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. and represents a total of roughly 5,000 Uber drivers, according to Gearhart. Uber has called the association bogus.
Gearhart also emphasizes that her understanding was de Blasio’s proposal was just to cap the number of Ubers until the study on traffic flow was completed and that the mayor was not necessarily proposing a permanent restriction on growth of the company in New York.
As the New York Times reported last week:
“The legislation would limit for-hire licenses based on company base size, allowing bases with more than 500 vehicles to grow by up to 1 percent during the study period, which is to end by September 2016. Uber, which operates seven of the 10 such bases in the city, said it was currently experiencing vehicle growth of roughly 3 percent per month. Smaller bases would be subject to higher caps.”
Full-time Uber driver and association member Peter Kuel says he was not familiar with de Blasio’s proposed restriction, but that he agreed, generally speaking, with the idea on a cap in the number of Ubers.
More Uber drivers doesn’t just mean more competition for rides, says Kuel, but also correlates with lower prices per ride, culminating in a double hit to drivers’ pocket books. A former taxi owner who left taxi driving due to low demand, Kuel notes that a cap on Ubers would also benefit cabbies.
“I think that there should be a limit in everything,” says Kuel.
But Josh Mohrer, general manager of the New York City branch of Uber, says growth in both supply and demand in Ubers has resulted in greater financial gain for drivers even when prices drop.
He says that in New York, the gross average wage of Uber X drivers -- Uber X being the company’s economy option that most riders use -- was $25 per hour before fees to Uber and expenses to drivers such as gas.
Three years and one price cut of 20 percent later, Mohrer says that gross average has risen to $36.
Gearhart says the street fight between Uber and New York City Hall is about more than Uber’s operations in the city, but also about how public policy is created.
“I think the question is really do companies set public policy or do people set public policy with their public officials?” she says.