Closed Proposal

NYC Congestion

Summary

From October 21, 2015 to January 8, 2016, people affected by congestion in the NYC area could use this site to learn about and discuss the causes and possible solutions. The public discussion is being compiled and will be submitted to local and state officials and transportation advisory groups.

Congestion is hardly a new problem, but there’s been some new activity around finding answers. The Mayor and Uber reached a temporary truce that involves a study of the impact of Uber and other for-hire vehicles and advice from a new Technology Advisory Group of transportation policy, economics and other experts. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer held a large public hearing, where transit officials, commercial transportation providers, mass transit advocates, traffic engineers, and economists offered data and debated what the City and State should do. Council Member and City Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez, speaking at NYU's Rudin Center for Transportation Policy, released a set of proposals for making transportation safer and more efficient.

With all this attention on what the experts think, it's time to bring the people into the discussion. Share your experiences and on-the-ground knowledge. Help evaluate the various proposed solutions and add your own ideas--so that policymakers are also hearing the voice of the people who know first-hand about NYC congestion.

Discussion 2. Congestion Contributors: E-Hails (Uber, etc.)? Other FHVs? - 19

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Subtopics

1|How are people using Uber, etc? What are e-hail drivers doing between pick-ups? - 7

Pretty much everyone agrees that congestion has gotten worse in Manhattan and some nearby neighborhoods. Some people blame Uber and other e-hail services: about 2,000 new FHV licenses are being issued each month by the TLC. Others say it's more complicated: it depends on what people using Uber or Lyft would have done if they didn't use an e-hail service. (Also see this recent analysis of 2015 pickup data.)

Here's what does seem to be known so far:

The Taxi and Limousine Commission has a lot of data on taxis; not so much on Uber. (Here's the short version (PDF); raw data here and here.) In late summer, the City and Uber seemed to agree to cooperate with a group of experts, the Technology Advisory Group, to study the impact of e-hail services, with Uber promising access to more operating data. But at MBP Gail Brewer's public hearing in mid-September, Uber representatives said a good congestion study would take a year. Now, Uber has hired its own consultant to do a study. And the City has hired a consultant whose report is due December 1. While we waiting for the experts to crunch data, tell us your story if you use Uber or another e-hail service:

(If you use a ride-share service like Via or UberPool, please comment Topic 2.3 - ride share services instead.)

If you use Uber or another e-hail service, when? where? and why?

If you weren't using an e-hail service, how would you be getting to your destination?

Whether or not e-hail services are taking business from taxis or public transit, another concern is whether they are adding to congestion (especially in the CBD) by cruising between jobs. Uber says it tells drivers not to cruise, and that drivers won't do it because it wastes gas. But so far, only Uber has the data to know for sure.

And this might be a no-win situation anyway for e-hail services: If drivers aren't cruising between pickups, are they taking up scarce legal street parking? or double-parking or waiting in loading zones?

If you drive for Uber or another e-hail service, how much of your time is spent cruising? If you aren't cruising, where are you parking between pickups?

Comments7

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I see most people use uber when they have to carry a alot of things, when the subway is too crowded, when the work pays, when want to go home from work *far more use to go home than to get to*, and they hate hailing taxis. But if taxis were easy to hail lots of people would use taxis instead of uber. And I never cruise--costtoo much and frustrating. I have a few nice spots that I go to where I'm out of the way until time to get on the road

Hi TPK2, thank you for your experience on when people use e-hails. Do you think that e-hails are just replacing taxis and not adding new car service users? If so, is that based on what your riders say or something else?

The problem isn't Uber, the problem is taxis. Taxi drivers sit in the middle of the road, hold up traffic, and are generally poor drivers with zero incentive to allow traffic to move past them. How many times have you seen taxi drivers cause gridlock or sit on the horn non-stop?

Uber allows riders to hop in the car and hop out upon arrival, instead of the terrible process where taxis sit in the middle of the road for 40-60 seconds at the rider pays and exits.

Also, if the subways were on-time and consistent, thousands of people wouldn't NEED to rely on Uber to get around...

Thank you for your comment, The-Stein. Given that there are statistics to indicate that Uber is fast replacing taxi rides throughout Manhattan, do you think replacing Uber with taxis would reduce travel time?

I don't use cabs to get to and from work in the CBD, although looking out at the street from my office window it's very obvious that many do! In all honesty though, when looking at traffic holistically (Commercial vehicles, personal cars, busses, cabs) I don't consider cabs to be high on the list of egregious contributors to congestion seeing as they can and do absolutely fill in the 'missing links' of our transit system. A lot of UWS and UES residents take taxis to work in midtown to avoid the nightmare of congestion on the 123 / 456 subways at rush hour and because at that brief distance the cost is reasonable. My girlfriend and I take cabs home within Brooklyn whenever we're out late with friends so that we don't have to wait inebriated on a subway platform. The sick and elderly take cabs to their appointments. I feel that with the reality of a congested public transit system, cabs are great at efficiently filling in the 'gaps', without having to worry so much about where they'll be parked when not in use, because the beauty of it is that they're always in use. We have larger offenders to worry about than cabs.

That said, there is room for improvement. 1) The number of cabs should absolutely be capped, not at an arbitrary low number meant to keep taxi medallions valuable, but at a number that ensures all cabbies will always have a hail to pick up, preventing the system from becoming saturated and from cabbies circling the block without a fare. 2) All cabs should be linked into an e-hail system so that cabbies can be aware of nearby fares and not have to hunt for them 3) All cabs should have the ability to enter payment information en-route to avoid delays upon arrival.

We use uber/arro when it is convenient. From home to school. From dinner out to home. Mostly.

I try to use the Arro app, it is great of easy payment. Not so great in e hailing.

The fact that Uber is quick and convenient and has catered to the customer, and not the taxi driver is not customer friendly.

Clear car vs dirty

Quick and professional vs get what you get

Easy payment vs Complaints about paying with a card

Available during busy times vs Shift change in the middle of the busiest time.

if I do not use e-hail service I would take mass transit.

NY politicians chose to only enforce traffic rules that satisfy there political position. This creates Chaos and feeds bad behavior. Uber cars and taxi's are commercial vehicles that should be ticketed for parking on residential area's over night. Motorized bikes;mini-bikes and tandem bikes towing small children in bike lanes with and against traffic will create a serious accident. Why do people have to die in an accident before we enforce traffic laws. These on-going actions need to be ticketed.

2|What about other FHVs? - 3

Although Uber is the most controversial right now, there are a lot of other FHVs. According to Mayor De Blasio, 64,500 licensed black cars, livery vehicles, and luxury limousines currently operate in N.Y. City. It can be confusing, because about a third of these vehicles also operate as e-hail vehicles through Uber.

When, where and why do you use traditional black car services or other FHVs that are not e-hail?
If you didn't use these services, how would you get to your destination?

Comments3

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My experience with for-hire vehicles in Brooklyn has been that drivers often work for both Uber and another company, e.g. Lyft, so I'm wondering how city regulations to limit traffic in NYC (which I support) can be relatively sure it's capturing more than one company in the broader industry. That's probably included in the study, just mentioning it.

Thank you for your input, davidmoore_ppf. You're right. (See e.g. A survey from Quora found that nearly 75% of rideshare drivers drive for at least 2 rideshare services, including Lyft, Uber, Sidecar, Postmates, FLUC, and DoorDash). The NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) currently has no authority to limit the number of licenses it issues to the for-hire-vehicle (FHV) industry. However, under the MoveNY Fair Plan, the TLC will collect GPS-based data from all FHVs to regulate the surcharge (MoveNY Fair Plan, p. 26). Are you concerned that this multi-employment syndrome will result in the under- or over- regulation of FHV drivers?

I no longer use car service.

I would take mass transit if not using car service.

3|Ride Share Services: Via, UberPool, etc. - 3

A 2013 article in the Harvard Business Review estimated that even a 15% shift in the number of commuters who ride-share would save $21 billion nationally in congestion costs each year. A sizable chunk of that could be saved in the greater NYC metropolitan area, according to a 2015 Deloitte study. Using census and congestion data, the researchers estimated that the current number of ride-sharing commuters is about 41% of those in a situation where they could do so--and if the other 59% started ride-sharing, $1.67 billion would be saved each year in consumer and infrastructure costs.

Peer-to-peer (P2P) ridesharing, facilitated by services like Via, UberPool and Lyft Line, tries to use untapped resources: the empty passenger seats in vehicles already on the road. There are definitely issues, including insurance and driver background checks. In 2013, the California Public Utilities Commission began to regulate these services as "transportation network companies"--with rules about these issues and more. This year, the US-DOT is funding a pilot project testing 3 different models of P2P ridesharing in different Chicago neighborhoods. The goal is to discover best practices, and circumstances that lead to success (or don't).

In the meantime:

If you've been a P2P ride-share passenger, how often and where have you done this? What lessons would you share with policymakers based on your experience?

If you've been a P2P ride-share driver, how often and where have you done this? What lessons would you share with policymakers based on your experience?

If you've never used a P2P ride-share service, what conditions (if any) would make you willing to use such a service?

Comments3

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Have not use the car pooling e-hail services.

Will investigate.

The city should also implement a car2go like service and designate spots citywide (similar to Citi Bike). This could reduce ownership if the option is availble nearby and at your destination. Avaliable parking spaces could be reserved via app for a limited window.

I have wondered the same thing about a car share program for the outer boroughs where the city could give designated on street parking spots to a car share company in exchange for allowing 1 way rentals to city residents and discounted rates. This Could reduce car ownership overall and relieve a financial burden of owning a car for many middle class families in the boroughs. However I am not sure if this would be good for Manhattan as it could encourage more driving, although it could also discourage the need for taxi services.

4|Should Uber and other e-hail companies be more regulated? - 6

Uber drivers have to get a FHV driver's license and a special vehicle plate from the TLC. This means a medical exam, periodic drug tests, defensive driving training, commercial insurance, and a vehicle no more than 5 years old. But this is much less government regulation than taxis.

Some experts think this is a good thing. They argue that innovative businesses should have freedom to start up and grow, in exchange for sharing operating data with government regulators. Then, once regulators can see the actual positive and negative impacts, they can make sensible decisions about what regulation, if any, is needed. Others disagree (PDF). They think that rapid, unregulated growth should be controlled while government tries to understand the possible consequences. Here are some important regulatory differences between taxis and Uber that might affect traffic congestion and passengers' experience:

Limited Numbers. According to Mayor De Blasio, there are about 13,600 yellow cabs; their number is capped. There are about 20,300 Uber vehicles; there is no limit on new licenses. According to the NY Times, Uber vehicles make an average of 96,600 pickups daily in the CBD. Since 2013, yellow cabs have made about 44,500 fewer CBD pickups each day. Some say this is a double problem: more vehicles cruising around making fewer pickups, plus more people switching from some other form of transportation to cars. Uber says the numbers have been misinterpreted. In mid-November, taxi owners filed a federal-court lawsuit against the City and the TLC, complaining that failure to control Uber has caused "catastrophic" harm to taxi owners and drivers.

Fares. Taxi fares are set by the TLC; Uber sets its own fares. Traffic slowdowns increase taxi fares, but not Uber fares. Taxi fares have some surcharges for busy times (e.g., $1, M-F 4-8 PM); Uber 'surge' pricing can double the fare whenever volume is high. Some worry that consumers are being taken advantage of or think they're getting a better deal than they really are. Whether Uber is a better deal seems to depend on the circumstances. Finally, taxi surcharges go to the MTA to support public transit; e-hail rides pay sales taxes, but only a small fraction of that money goes to the MTA. (See Topic 5.1 on the loss of MTA revenue from declining taxi ridership)

Nondiscrimination, accessibility, safety, cleanliness. Taxis are supposed to serve all passengers and destinations equally, but many complain about driver discrimination against African Americans and low-income neighborhoods. One study from Los Angeles found that Uber did better. People can complain to the TLC, but some say Uber's process for getting rid of problem drivers is faster and more reliable. As for handicapped access, by 2020 half of yellow cabs must be accessible; there's no such rule for Uber. As for passenger safety, there's disagreement over whether Uber's background checks of its drivers are as thorough as those required for taxi drivers. Finally, taxi drivers are required (PDF) to keep the cab interior clean, but some passengers say Uber's vehicles are generally cleaner and in better shape.

What do you think is the right approach to regulating Uber and other e-hires-- and why?

Related Topic 4: Move Fair NY proposal that e-hails and other FHVs pay charges, like taxis, to fund transportation improvements.

Comments6

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The "right approach to regulating Uber and other e-hires" and all chaufur cars is to cap all pro licenses when drivers outnumber passengers. Just give every driver a license that has a gps chip for work, and another license that doesnt for personal. Then everybody gets monitored the same.

LDrive, welcome to the discussion. I want to make sure I understand correctly. You're saying that the city should use a cap focused on supply & demand. And to get accurate info, track data from all drivers (taxi. FHV,etc.) personally--by using a chip in their hardcopy licenses--as opposed to tracking cars, phones, apps, that the drivers use, is that correct? If so, could you explain for those of us not in the industry your reasoning?

The market should determine who wins and looses in the taxi/e-hail battle.

The TLC missed the boat and is now a the less than desirable alternative.

Drivers should be licenced and insured. Regulatory fee should go to making mass transit in NYC free.

Taxi and Uber drivers park commercial vehicles on residential streets every day. Its against the law and these vehicles should be ticketed. Why are the ticket agents ignoring this. Are they being told not to ticket taxi's and Uber vehicles and only ticket neighborhood cars. Lets end the Bloomberg culture of two sets of rules. The rules of its done because I can. Enforce the law as its written. Not based on your personal doctrine...

If yellow cabs are capped Uber should be too. Congestion is a major issue. But more importantly I am 100% for Uber being taxed more as a business if they just do what they want (set own fares, surges, no labor protection or benefits for their workers, unlimited number of cars). And I don't want to hear about increased taxes on businesses will dissuade companies from operating. Uber won't leave markets, and there should be mechanisms in place so that increases in operating costs for the business can not be passed to consumers. If Uber wants to play, they need to pay. The tax collected from this should be used for improvements to city transportation infrastructure. Bottom line- any increase in cost should be put on the business not on increased subway and bus fares for individuals. Competitors of Uber should be encouraged, but face the same rules. Finally, as non-govt companies evolve and prove their efficiencies over state and federal entities, millions of tax payer dollars should not be used to prop up those archaic entities (USPS is a great example). If yellow cabs become irrelavant, so be it, thats economic evolution. That does not mean, however, that businesses should just be free to do whatever they want. Regulate.

Thanks for your comment, bkinnyc, and welcome to the discussion. It sounds like you would recommend imposing a tax on Uber vehicles to pay for transit improvements. You may be interested in Topic 4 (Move Fair NY proposal), which would impose surcharges on taxis and e-hail services like Uber when they travel in areas of Manhattan.

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