It’s not true that everyone complains about traffic but no one does anything about it. On Wednesday, the Taxi & Limousine Commission is poised, we hope, to take smart action — by voting to continue the freeze on adding new vehicles to the 80,000 app cars driving for Uber, Lyft, Via and Juno now on New York’s roads, and to require that not too many of them are driving empty south of 96th St.
From zero in 2011 to 80,000 today, the app cars have been a boon to many in the four-and-a-half boroughs that yellow taxis ignore. But 80,000 extra cars jockeying for passengers cause lots of traffic, especially on the skinny island where they tend to congregate.
The TLC’s new rules, coming after a thorough study, maintain the pause on the growth of app cars imposed last summer. Contrary to predictions, that didn’t result in longer wait times or people losing their ride. TLC says it’ll raise the cap if service suffers.
Limiting empty cars in the core of Manhattan is also sane. App cars account for almost 30% of all traffic below 60th St., outnumbering even yellows — and 41% of those app cars are empty at any given time (by comparison, there are just 13,587 yellows, 2,000 of which are mothballed). The new rules require no more than 31% of them to cruise empty in the zone.
Biggest quarterly loss ever: Uber earnings disappoint as share prices tank
Uber lost $5.24 billion in the second quarter – its largest quarterly loss ever – after making huge stock-based payouts in the months following its initial public offering.
The ride-hailing giant said Wednesday it paid $3.9 billion in stock-based compensation and expenses during the quarter. It also paid $298 million in stock and cash to drivers to show appreciation in connection with the IPO.
Uber’s earnings release comes a day after rival Lyft improved its 2019 outlook, despite a projected loss of nearly $1 billion.
The loss per share including those expenses totaled $4.72 while revenue jumped 14% to $3.17 billion. Analysts surveyed by FactSet expected a loss of $2.03 per share on revenue of $3.31 billion, on average.
“We could push the company to break even if we wanted to, frankly, but I think what you will see from us is…lower losses going forward while at the same time we aggressively invest in new growth levers,” said Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi in a conference call with reporters. “But there’s no doubt in my mind that eventually the business will be a break even and profitable business.”
Khosrowshahi said he expects 2019 to be the company’s peak loss year and for the losses to be smaller in the next two years.
Khosrowshahi said he’s confident in the scale of Uber’s ridesharing business and its technical capabilities. He does not expect the Eats food delivery business to be profitable next year or the year after, but said “I think what we have is a great combination of a ride business that is going to turn more profitable over the next couple years, that will allow us to invest aggressively in the Eats business and also carry a bottom line that improves.”
Uber’s shares fell 11% in after-hours trading.
Gross bookings, which is the total dollar value of rides and Uber Eats meals and the amount paid by freight shippers, grew 31% – or 37% in constant currency – compared with the same time last year.
Revenue for the Uber Eats service rose 72% to $595 million. Ridesharing revenue grew just 2% to $2.3 billion because of the one-time driver appreciation payments, the company said.
TLC set to vote on new e-hail rules
The Taxi and Limousine Commission is ready to move ahead Wednesday with new rules for app-based car services despite opposition from some City Council members and hundreds of pages of comments criticizing the plans.
The vote comes two weeks after a daylong hearing that featured a procession of app-based drivers worried about how the rules will affect their livelihood. The TLC is looking to extend a year-old moratorium on new vehicle licenses for Uber, Lyft, Juno and Via, and to reduce the amount of time app-based drivers can cruise without passengers in Manhattan below 96th Street.
The proposals, which would cut empty cruising time to 31% in the next year from the current average of 41%, grew out of a City Council–mandated study of how for-hire vehicles have contributed to congestion. The new regulations would be in addition to a minimum-wage rule that took effect in February along with a congestion surcharge on both FHVs and taxis.
Uber and Lyft, leading a drive against the rules, say that too many regulations have been enacted at once and are threatening their business. Groups such as the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Haitian American Caucus have echoed those complaints, arguing that the TLC is closing off opportunities for recent immigrants, who make up a large share of the drivers.
Some City Council members have also asked the TLC to think twice, saying that the pace of regulation should slow until a new agency head is appointed. The regulator is currently led by acting Commissioner Bill Heinzen.
Many drivers say the license cap has forced them to rent vehicles at a premium rather than drive their own car.
The TLC argues that ridership continues to grow for Uber and Lyft, and drivers have gotten an average pay raise of $500 a month since the minimum-wage regulations went into effect. The agency sees the cap extension and the cruising regulations as essential to reducing congestion and making the app-based companies more efficient.
As for drivers who are paying more to drive because the moratorium prevents them from getting a TLC license for their own car, a spokesman for the agency said it would “seek more information from the vehicle-leasing companies about the rates they charge and the terms of their leases.”
New York taxi regulator tries to put the brakes on free speech
Rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft have revolutionized local transportation and broken stagnant taxi monopolies. Ridesharing offers customers convenience and value, while providing drivers the opportunity to earn money on a flexible schedule.
But there are downsides to this innovative new arrangement. For example, Uber drivers often work long hours and look for additional sources of income. And riders stuck in traffic usually are bored. One tech startup’s proposed solution to those problems has led to a conflict with New York City taxi regulators in an unexpected battle over free speech.
The startup in question, Vugo, is among companies that install digital tablets in rideshare vehicles. These tablets offer entertainment content to riders, such as the ability to stream YouTube videos. And the technology displays advertisements that are based on the location of the vehicle and the ride destination. So a business customer going to the airport might see ads for laptops or offers for stores inside the airport. On the other hand, a customer going out on the town with friends will see ads for nearby stores and restaurants.
Moreover, drivers receive a portion of the ad revenue — about $100 a month, on average. Overall, this type of technology would appear to be a win for everyone, from drivers to customers to advertisers.
But New York City has decided to ban such devices because of the possibility that they may annoy commuters. In a city where panhandlers routinely harangue tourists and billboards tower hundreds of feet over pedestrians, the city’s goal almost seems quaint. That is, until you realize that New York City already allows its ubiquitous yellow cabs to play video advertisements inside their vehicles, on the much-derided Taxi TVs.
And until you realize that the city’s policy blatantly violates the First Amendment.
Under the First Amendment, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) cannot prohibit rideshare operators from installing tablets to display truthful commercial advertisements. Commercial speech is protected by the Constitution, and restrictions on commercial speech must serve a substantial governmental interest and be no more extensive than necessary.
The TLC does not have a substantial interest in protecting Uber riders from annoyance. And even if it did, it could do so in a much less restrictive manner. It could regulate the volume of such devices, or ensure that they can be turned off. Not to mention the hypocrisy of the TLC banning ads in Uber vehicles but not in cabs — a constitutionally fatal defect.
Unfortunately, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals recently sided with the TLC and upheld the advertising ban. In doing so, the Second Circuit relied on outdated cases that give commercial speech far less protection than any other kind of expression. This case hopefully will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. If so, the Supreme Court should take the opportunity to not just correct the Second Circuit’s erroneous application of the law, but also to reconsider its past cases that relegate commercial speech to a second-class constitutional status.
Today, the line between commercial and non-commercial speech is hard to define. Commercial advertisements increasingly have staked positions on significant social or political issues. Nike’s Colin Kaepernick ads and Gillette’s campaign against “toxic masculinity” are just two recent prominent examples. Who gets to decide that such speech is less “valuable” or “worthy of protection” than a political candidate’s latest highly deceptive attack ad? And the very same Vugo device can be used to show either type of advertisement. As the Vugo case shows, weak protection for commercial speech also can be used as a tool of protectionism and discrimination.
It is time for the Supreme Court to declare that speech is speech, whether it is commercial or political, and that government bureaucrats cannot censor speech just because some may find it annoying.
Former NFL running back Cedric Benson dies in motorcycle crash
FinCEN Director: Casinos Must Report Suspicious Transactions, Including Suspect Use of Cryptocurrencies
Trump accuses New York Times of going on a ‘racism witch hunt’
Entertainment1 year ago
Entertainment12 months ago
The New York Times best-seller list
Entertainment1 year ago
Transportation Alternatives bike month sponsored by Kiwi Energy
MTA News1 year ago
LIRR Weekend Parking Guide
MTA News1 year ago
Access-a-Ride needs access to bus lanes
Business strategies1 year ago
How to Handle Negative Customer Feedback
MTA News1 year ago
MTA’s first female head of NYC subway
MTA News1 year ago
The winners of МТА Genius Transit Challenge