Uber will soon join Lyft in blocking New York City drivers from working when demand for rides is low as the tech giants grapple with minimum-pay rules. Starting Tuesday, Uber will lock drivers out of its platform at times and locations that few riders are requesting trips, according the company, which emailed its Big Apple drivers about the change Friday afternoon. Uber is following Lyft’s lead in controlling its supply of cars in response to the Taxi and Limousine Commission’s rules setting a pay floor for drivers based on how much time they spend carrying passengers. Both companies blame the city for forcing them to limit when drivers work. “Time and again we’ve seen Mayor (Bill) de Blasio’s TLC pass arbitrary and politically-driven rules that have unintended consequences for drivers and riders — despite objections from City Council members, transportation experts, editorial boards and community groups,” Uber spokesperson Harry Hartfield said in a statement. Uber’s new limits are similar to a scheme that Lyft implemented over the summer. Drivers who try to open their app when and where demand is lagging will be told that they are unable to drive, the company says. Those who use wheelchair-accessible vehicles will be exempt from the restrictions, as will those with the top status in Uber’s driver rewards program, the company said. A map showing where demand is the highest will allow drivers to travel to other parts of the city to have a better shot of getting work, Uber says. Drivers will also be offered a time slot when they will be guaranteed the ability to log on — a feature that Uber says distinguishes its system from Lyft’s. Uber says it was forced to make the change because its platform was flooded with drivers who opened its app after being shut out of Lyft’s. That hurt its utilization rate, the measure of how much time drivers spend actually carrying passengers that serves as the basis for the city’s minimum pay rules, Uber said. The rules aim to ensure that drivers make $17.22 an hour after expenses. Uber’s change will further harm drivers’ ability to make money in a notoriously difficult industry, according to Corona Uber driver Aziz Bah. Bah used to drive for both Uber and Lyft but stopped working for the latter after the demand restrictions repeatedly locked him out of the app, he said. Now his Lyft income of $500 to $600 a week is gone and his Uber earnings have dropped because of the glut of drivers on that platform, Bah said. Limiting when drivers can work also compromises the flexibility that drew many of them into the industry, said Bah, who is also a steward for the Independent Drivers Guild, a labor group for app-based drivers. The guild raised concerns about Lyft’s restrictions in a June letter to the TLC. “Some people quit their nine-to-five jobs in order to have this flexibility that the industry gave them,” Bah said. “… All of a sudden it’s being taken away.” Both Uber and Lyft argue that the restrictions are a result of the TLC’s rules, which Lyft unsuccessfully sued over earlier this year. Acting TLC Commissioner Bill Heinzen defended the agency’s first-in-the-nation regulations, which came amid a landmark freeze on most new for-hire vehicles. The firms spent years flooding the city’s streets with cars and should keep in mind that “drivers are crucial to their continued success,” Heinzen said. “Until we took needed action last year, it has been Uber and Lyft’s business model to oversaturate the market while promising drivers that they could succeed despite these companies’ stacking the deck against them,” Heinzen said in a statement. “TLC and City Council put in place smart policies to address the problems these companies created, and they are finally being forced to experiment with ways to run their businesses in an environment of accountability.”


4 thoughts on “Uber Starts To Block Drivers From Taking Riders When Business Is Slow

  1. hiramp says:

    If you put to much weight on Uber, we will all pay in taxes later. No way this country can abandon what people have come to rely on after 10 years of rideshare services.

  2. William Burke says:

    Uber on Tuesday will begin limiting drivers’ access to its app in New York City to comply with regulation aimed at boosting drivers’ pay and easing congestion in Manhattan, laws that Uber says will have unintended consequences.

    Uber Technologies Inc’s move to lock out drivers at times and in areas of low demand comes just months after rival Lyft Inc implemented similar measures in response to city regulation.

    Both companies oppose the unprecedented rules, saying they will prevent drivers from earning money and cut off low-income New Yorkers in remote areas not serviced by regular taxis, a claim the city rejects.

    “Time and again we’ve seen Mayor (Bill) de Blasio’s TLC pass arbitrary and politically-driven rules that have unintended consequences for drivers and riders,” Uber said in a statement on Monday.

    New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) last year implemented several laws challenging the way ride-share companies operate in North America’s largest city, one of the industry’s largest markets.

    The agency’s acting commissioner, Bill Heinzen, in a statement on Monday defended the laws, saying they held companies accountable and prevented Uber and Lyft from oversaturating the market at drivers’ expense.

    New rules cap the number of app-based, for-hire cars and established minimum pay for the city’s 80,000 ride-share drivers based on how much time they spend transporting passengers.

    The laws also limit the time drivers spend “cruising” – driving to or waiting to pick up new passengers. Starting in February, ride-share companies have to reduce cruising rates by 5% and later by 10%, down from currently 41%. Non-compliance can result in fines or even the inability to operate in the city.

    The rules are aimed at reducing congestion in Manhattan, where ride-share vehicles make up close to a third of peak time traffic, according to the TLC.

    Uber said there was no evidence showing the steps would ease congestion. The company supported a $2.75 congestion surcharge implemented for Manhattan ride-share trips earlier this year.

    Lyft in June changed its app to lock out drivers during low demand. The company said it supports drivers during the change, for example by showing them areas with high demand or times during which restrictions are lifted.

    The New York Taxi Workers Alliance, a union representing taxi and app-based drivers, said the companies were trying to scare drivers.

    posted by Reuters

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