Ridesharing services such as Lyft and Uber are loved by consumers around the globe for the convenience they provide in getting around town. But, these services and their competitors often face regulatory challenges and opposition from traditional car services, which slows innovation and leaves consumers with fewer choices.
The Big Apple
Recently, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) proposed rules that would require their approval of software upgrades to an app. Among other requirements, the rules would require for-hire vehicle app providers to give a smart phone or other device to the Commission with access to the app and test IDs, and impose a $1000 technology fee on any entrepreneur who wants to enter the for-hire vehicle market with an app-based solution.
Last week, the Commission held a hearing on the rules, and were met with fierce opposition. The Apps Alliance team spoke at the hearing, arguing that the rule would place an undue burden on app providers and result in decreased competition and fewer choices for consumers.
Prior to the hearing, Uber drivers protested the Commission in front of the TLC building, and the public hearing room was standing room only. Stakeholders from the taxi industry, black car drivers, and proponents of the ridesharing economy attended.
TLC Chair Meera Joshi argued that the effect of the rules had been mischaracterized, saying that the rules would not actually require app developers to reveal their code.
The Alliance, in their statement, argued that was unclear and at a bare minimum the rules needed clarification.
Read the Alliance’s statement before the Commission here.
UPDATE: June 22 New York Taxi and Limousine Commission Approves Revised App Rules
On Monday June 22, New York Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) approved revised rules for for-hire vehicle dispatch apps by unanimous vote. The Alliance along with other stakeholders expressed concern over the proposed rules at a TLC public hearing on May 28. Following the hearing, the Commission issued revised rules to address concerns from the Alliance and other stakeholders.
Importantly, the revisions require providers to simply notify the TLC of any app modifications rather than requiring pre-approval as the previous draft required. TLC Commissioners also voted to remove a provision that would require a $1,000 technology fee and made the rule technology neutral to avoid solely singling out apps.
Read the revised rules here.
Read the Alliance’s press release here.
UPDATE: June 30 New York City Council Considers Bill Affecting Ridesharing
Just weeks after a recent victory for the sharing economy at the TLC, the New York City Council is considering a bill that would be a step backwards for consumers and businesses. On Tuesday, June 30, the Council held a hearing on a bill sponsored by Councilmen Stephen Levine of Brooklyn and Ydanis Rodriguez of Northern Manhattan that would cap the number of for-hire vehicle licenses for the next year while the city conducts a study on traffic congestion.
The current bill, which is being backed by the TLC, is almost identical to one that the taxi industry called for several months ago and is aimed primarily at app-based companies. One condition to the bill states that companies with more than 500 vehicles would only be able to add vehicles at a 1% per year rate.
A second bill aims to study the impact of the expanding industry on traffic jams, but does not consider all potential causes of congestion. If the study proposed by the bill is not completed by August 2016, the restrictions would be lifted.
The New York Taxi Commission is just one example of the new regulatory landscape facing ride-sharing innovators. Airports across the country are increasingly recognizing consumers’ desires to access ridesharing services at airports – and sometimes blocking access to airports in favor of local, or airport contracted taxi drivers.
California based, Lyft and Uber can already operate at three major airports in the state, but have not received permission to serve Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The Alliance and a coalition of other organizations including Uber and Lyft are urging the Board of Airport Commissioners to allow ridesharing companies to pick up passengers at LAX, one of the busiest airports in the country.
Read the coalition letter here.
Read the coalition letter to the San Jose City Council here.
Across the Pond
In the U.S., regulators tend to be more welcoming of ridesharing services than European counterparts: Uber faces bans in the Netherlands, Spain, France, and Belgium.
In London, the black cab industry urged Mayor Boris Johnson to ban Uber. Johnson said, “there was nothing he would like to do more” than ban Uber, but said he could not force the company to stop operating. In response to the rise in Uber drivers, Johnson’s administration is considering a cap on the number of cabs in London.
In March, a German court banned UberPOP for the second time since fall 2014. The previous ban on UberPOP lasted two weeks in September 2014 when a court ruled that Uber was competing unfairly with local taxis. So far, the most recent decision from March stands.
If you have any questions or comments, please send an email to Policy@AppAlliance.org
Michelle Lease, Policy Counsel