Riders Wonder: With Uber as New York’s Plan B, Is There a Plan C?

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Nisha James, 34, a nanny from Brooklyn, said she felt the cap on the ride-hail services had been a Manhattan-centric decision without regard for what it will mean for riders in the other boroughs. “I don’t think they were thinking about anywhere else,” she said, adding that the cap will likely send her and other Uber riders back to public transit when they cannot get a car.

In the Bronx, Jeff Gutierrez, 26, said that he only takes Uber now to commute to his job in media sales for a cable news station across the borough. Uber takes 15 minutes. The bus takes 1 hour and 30 minutes and is so crowded he cannot always get a seat. There is no contest. “We should not be stuffed like sardines in a bus,” he said. “Uber is so affordable and convenient. I will never ride the bus or train again as long I work in the city.”

Uber officials said that they planned to recruit drivers who already hold for-hire vehicle licenses in the city to work for Uber, a group that represents as many as 35,000 potential new drivers. Moreover, since the moratorium is on new vehicles — not new drivers — they also hoped to maximize the use of existing vehicles by encouraging their owners to allow other drivers to use them when they are sitting idle.

Though the cap would apply citywide, the ride-hail companies have warned that it could lead to fewer cars and worse service with longer wait times and higher prices, particularly in the boroughs outside Manhattan. With a limited supply of vehicles, too many drivers could opt to remain in Manhattan picking up well-heeled tourists and business workers, leaving too few drivers in the other boroughs where ridership has been growing the fastest. Yellow taxis, which are similarly limited in number, have traditionally been concentrated in Manhattan’s business districts, though they can legally operate anywhere in the city.

Mr. Schaller acknowledged such concerns, but added that unlike taxis, the ride-hail cars are dispatched with technology that allows the drivers to see exactly where the calls are coming in. He said that if they see more calls coming from, say, Queens, they will go there. “Water doesn’t bunch up at one end of the lake, it levels off across the whole lake,” he said. “The drivers chase the money — and if the money is all over the city — they go all over the city.”

Not all fans of the ride-hail services were disappointed by the regulations. Shiri Wolf, 38, a lawyer who recently moved back to the Upper West Side, said that even though she has come to rely on the ride-hail services, something needed to be done about the “horrendous” traffic on city streets.

“In the five years I’ve been gone, I think traffic must have doubled,” she said. “It’s fair to have cabbies earn a decent living, and they may have some efficiencies to gain, to learn from Lyft and Uber, but on the whole they’re more expensive because they’re regulated and I think regulation is a way to keep things fair for everybody.”

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