Uber and Lyft Score a Win as Judge Strikes Down Cruising Cap in New York City

can be reached at nwakelin@gmail.com
can be reached at nwakelin@gmail.com
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A judge in New York recently ruled in favor of Uber and Lyft in a lawsuit over cruising limitations on ridesharing services in New York City, according to Reuters. The rule on cruising was passed by the city over the summer and was set to take effect in February.

  • A judge ruled in favor of Uber and Lyft in a lawsuit over cruising limitations in New York City.
  • The law was set to take effect in February
  • The city hoped to decrease congestion by limiting cruising time.

Ridesharing services were supposed to reduce road congestion. The idea was that they would reduce traffic because people would no longer need personal cars. Instead, studies have shown that traffic is increasing in major cities, even those where ridesharing has a solid foothold.

Does ridesharing increase traffic congestion? (Photo: Getty Images)

Do Uber and Lyft increase traffic?

Uber and Lyft hired Fehr and Peers to study the problem and found ridesharing vehicles aren’t responsible for the majority of Vehicle Miles Traveled. They are, however, responsible for adding an extra vehicle to the road 46 percent of the time.

Much of that time, there’s no fare and drivers are simply cruising the streets while waiting for a fare. The NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission decided to act. It capped the number of for-hire vehicles and stopped issuing licenses for 12 months back in the summer of 2018.

That didn’t solve the problem of congestion on New York City streets, so the commission took aim at cruising time. Initially, drivers could cruise 41 percent of the time they were working. The new rule called for that percentage to drop to 36 percent in February and then 31 percent in August.

Uber opposed the cap because it could keep drivers from working at all when business is slow. Not only would that reduce driver income, it could reduce people’s reliance on ridesharing. If during slow times there are so few drivers that potential customers can’t find a ride, then they’ll look to other transportation solutions like taxis or buses.

Uber and Lyft filed separate lawsuits over the cruising caps and Supreme Court of the State of New York Judge Lyle Frank ruled in their favor. He said his ruling covered both lawsuits. According to the New York Post, Frank found the rationale for the limit “simply insufficient” and was critical of the commission treating time spent traveling to pick up a fare as part of cruising time.

Traffic congestion is a persistent issue for New York City. (Photo: Getty Images)

Solving the congestion problem

While this is a win for Uber and Lyft, both companies are aware the problem of congestion isn’t going away. New York City is considering appealing Judge Frank’s decision and says it’s committed to solving the problem.

Uber wants to solve the problem too, but its solution isn’t putting limitations on drivers. Instead it says congestion pricing is the right approach. According to The Verge, this would encourage people to not simply hail a ride on their own, but to consider sharing that ride with other passengers or taking public transportation.

UberPool allows passengers to do exactly that by matching riders with others heading in the same direction. While it might take a few moments longer to get to your destination with stops for the other riders, it reduces the cost to each passenger and the number of vehicles required to get everyone to wherever they want to go.

While ridesharing companies acknowledge their role in increasing congestion, particularly in urban areas like New York City, they don’t want changes that could significantly alter their business model. They want their drivers to have the flexibility to work when it’s convenient without punitive restrictions.

This is also in the best interest of its customers. For ridesharing to work, vehicles need to be readily available whenever a customer needs one. Otherwise, those customers will look elsewhere and may stop looking to ridesharing as a first solution.

WHY THIS MATTERS

Ridesharing makes it easier for people to get around cities, but at the cost of increased congestion. Neither government officials nor the public like the extra vehicles crowding city streets and want a solution. So do ridesharing companies. Finding the right solution will require cooperation rather than rules that arbitrarily restrict ridesharing services.


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can be reached at nwakelin@gmail.com
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