NY mayor backs off in battle with Uber

Taxi drivers upset after plan to cap number of Uber vehicles in the city is dropped - for now

NEW YORK • New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has backed away in his fight with ride-hailing company Uber, agreeing to drop for now a plan to cap the number of vehicles that Uber operates in the city.

The move brought a temporary end to a fractious struggle that had consumed City Hall for several days, with parts of the city inundated with mailers, phone calls, advertisements and broadsides against the mayor. Under the agreement with the company, the city will conduct a four-month study on the effect of Uber and other for-hire vehicle operators on New York's traffic.

A city council Bill, which was to come to a vote as early as yesterday, called for a cap on Uber's growth during the study. Officials said a similar restriction remained a possibility in the future. The arrangement requires Uber to release a trove of data which the city has been seeking for its analysis.

First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris said the city would also undertake a sprawling review of the entire car service industry, with an eye to raising revenue for mass transit services and making improvements for disabled passengers.

He said the agreement would "advance the city's vital policy goals for passengers, drivers and the public".

Mr Josh Mohrer, Uber's general manager in New York, praised the agreement, saying new drivers "will continue to be free to join the for-hire industry".

Sensitive to any notion that Mr de Blasio had capitulated, aides on Wednesday noted that a cap could still be revisited.

"Uber must adhere to the agreement," said Ms Karen Hinton, the mayor's chief spokesman, who called the deal "a huge win" for the city. "Otherwise the cap gets put back on the table."

While several city council members expressed support for the agreement, some supporters of the cap were caught off guard.

Mr Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, whose drivers rallied outside City Hall on Monday, said the mayor "just basically caved".

The council proposal was designed to limit the growth of for-hire vehicle companies such as Uber to 1 per cent, pending a study of city traffic patterns. The city had suggested that Uber might be responsible for slower traffic speeds in Manhattan - a charge rejected by the company.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 24, 2015, with the headline 'NY mayor backs off in battle with Uber'. Print Edition | Subscribe