This summer, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio waged war against Uber, claiming that Uber and other for-hire vehicle companies were contributing to congestion and pollution in New York City.
Under a proposed bill, for-hire vehicle companies that have bases with 500 cars or more – which includes Uber – would only be able to increase their number of vehicles by 1% every year.
For Uber, this would have meant adding just 201 new drivers for the next year. In a city where Uber says it’s adding 25,000 new users every week, it’s easy to see how this could affect Uber.
Of course, Uber memorably fought hard against the bill, and de Blasio -whose mayoral campaign received more than $250,000 from the taxi industry – eventually backed down.
Now, new data from FiveThirtyEight suggests that de Blasio’s assertion about Uber was wrong; that instead of adding to Manhattan’s traffic, Uber is actually replacing millions of taxis in the most congested parts of the city, particularly in central and lower Manhattan.
In these parts of the city, Uber pickups increased year-over-year by 3.82 million; meanwhile, taxi pickups decreased for the same time period by 3.83 million. Using data based solely on pickups does not account for other factors that could contribute to congestion, like how much time drivers spend idling between trips, or travel length.
But it does not appear that, according to FiveThirtyEight’s data, Uber is actually contributing to the spike in congestion and traffic that Mayor de Blasio said it was. It appears Uber is mostly just replacing taxi pickups.
And in areas that have been historically underserved by taxis – north Manhattan and the outer boroughs – both Uber and taxi pickups have increased over the past year.
While the city council dropped its proposed vehicle cap in July, the city said it would still be conducting a four-month congestion and pollution study and a vehicle cap would still be possible later on.
New York City is one of Uber’s largest markets; the company generates hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue there. And the taxi industry in the city is feeling the burn from Uber’s presence.
In August, Gothamist published a story about the increasing number of abandoned taxis piling up on the streets of Brooklyn outside of taxi dispatchers.
Hossam Yossri, who also works atMcGuinness Management in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, told Gothamist that taxi drivers keep quitting, abandoning their vehicles to defect to Uber. He says drivers are jumping ship to Uber because they don’t have to worry about paying a lease or interacting with a dispatch.
Taxi dispatchers like McGuinness Management Corporation have so many abandoned taxis that employees like Jon-Nicholas Kiouvas serve as “runners,” coming into work early to run around the neighborhood, reparking taxis to avoid getting parking tickets.
Gus Kodogiannis, who opened McGuinness Management almost 30 years ago, said: “Honestly, yes, it’s Uber. We’ve lost 40% of our business in the last year and a half.”