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Uber sues NYC over limit on ridehailing vehicles

NEW YORK CITY  — Uber is suing New York City over its temporary cap on new vehicle licenses for ridehailing companies to address traffic congestion. It claims the city plans on making the cap permanent.

In a complaint filed by Uber in New York State Supreme Court on Friday afternoon, Uber asks that the city remove the cap so it can continue adding new vehicles to the road to support demand.

In August, New York passed a package of bills that would limit the number of ride-sharing vehicles allowed on its roads, and require Uber, Lyft and other companies to pay their drivers a minimum wage.

The one-year freeze on new for-hire vehicle licenses was intended as a temporary restraint on the growth of ridehailing companies as the city explores ways of reducing traffic congestion. In the complaint, Uber questions whether the city has taken the many causes of congestion into consideration.

Uber argues that Mayor Bill de Blasio appears to have made up his mind about enforcing a permanent cap. The complaint mentions the Mayor’s comments on a recent episode of the Brian Lehrer Show.

“We finally put caps on Uber and the other ridesharing services so that we could create more fairness and stop this race to bottom with the wages of drivers,” the mayor said, according to a transcript of the interview.“We’re going to put ongoing caps in place on the for-hire vehicles.”

Uber says it would take issue with a permanent ban.

“This is a ‘ban first, study later’ approach where the study is nothing more than post hoc window-dressing for a predetermined outcome,” the complaint said. “The City chose to significantly restrict service, growth and competition by the for-hire vehicle industry, which will have a disproportionate impact on residents outside of Manhattan who have long been underserved by yellow taxis and mass transit. The City made this choice in the absence of any evidence that doing so would meaningfully impact congestion, the problem the City was ostensibly acting to solve.”

Seth Stein, deputy press secretary for the mayor’s office, said 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. The City’s new laws aim to change that.”

New York Taxi Workers Alliance released a statement in support of the ban, citing Uber’s impact on taxi drivers.

“With more than 80,000 Uber cars on our roads, no driver can get enough fares to feed our families,” said the statement. “Uber created this crisis of congestion on our streets. Uber caused this crisis of plummeting incomes for all drivers. And Uber is worsening the MTA crisis, siphoning income away from public transit by subsidizing its passenger fares.”

Uber’s lawsuit comes just one day after Amazon pulled its plans to build a new headquarters in New York after it faced backlash from members of the community and local politicians. Uber’s competitors are also in the midst of a legal battle with New York City. Lyft and Juno sued the city just days before the new driver minimum wage law went into effect on February 1, arguing that the formula for determining the wage unfairly benefits the industry behemoth, Uber.

In a statement from Uber spokesperson Harry Hartfield, “The City Council’s new law guarantees a living wage for drivers, and the administration should not have blocked New Yorkers from taking advantage of it by imposing a cap. We agree that fighting congestion is a priority, which is why we support the state’s vision for congestion pricing, the only evidence-based plan to reduce traffic and fund mass transit.

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