New York City’s unprecedented attempt to temporarily limit Uber licenses brought joy to the taxicab industry on Wednesday (August 8), but presented some frustration for Black Americans who regularly find themselves shut out of the yellow vehicles because of racism.
It’s worth noting that Uber and Lyft have had their fair share of racist drivers who have left African-American customers stranded and stressed. And Uber’s recent troubling history of harassment and discrimination doesn’t bode well for its reputation either. However, people of color have become frequent users and drivers for the ride-hailing service in the absence of taxicabs being available to them.
Interestingly, taxicabs’ services force more ride cancellations and longer wait times for people of color than Uber and Lyft in several cities, though the ride-sharing companies still have problems in that area. In Los Angeles, African Americans wait for taxis about 30 minutes on average if they actually get picked up, as opposed to about six minutes for Uber and five for Lyft, according to a June report by UCLA’s Institute for Transportation Studies. It’s clear that Uber and Lyft have become reliable sources of transportation for many people of color, despite various regulation attempts.
It is the sizable growth of Uber—spurred by the dollars of African Americans—as well as traffic congestion concerns and the exodus of taxi cab drivers from a saturated motor-vehicle market that prompted the NYC City Council’s decision to regulate for-hire vehicles. A one-year moratorium on issuing ride-share permits has been greenlit to go before Mayor Bill de Blasio for approval, The Associated Press reported.
With the move, NYC could usher in a national trend that may have serious effects for Black riders.
For one, Black people may have no choice but to deal with racist cab drivers. And if other cities follow behind New York City’s move to curb Uber, that will not be a good look for African Americans.
Uber’s fare prices could also increase as a result of limiting new drivers and licenses, with the shrinking workforce leading to less cars on the road. Also, any Black-owned ride-hail companies may have a harder time breaking into the for-hire vehicle industry.
In full transparency, the regulation could help to ensure that Uber drivers begin to earn more livable wages. The move would also ease financial hardships that have contributed to the deaths of several taxi cab drivers in the last year.
Only time will tell if NYC’s decision will go national or how it may also affect Black America—but we may have to brace ourselves.