Lyft, Uber and Via yesterday made an offer to succor New York City’s beleaguered taxi medallion owners: a $100 million relief fund paid over five years to cover the plight of these poor souls. But the city, in its arrogance, refused this generosity! How could they? Perhaps because the money was contingent on New York dropping its proposed regulations of the ridesharing industry. In this light it’s hard to perceive it as much more than city officials rejecting a bribe.
The proposal, as detailed in documents provided to TechCrunch by Lyft, would have the three companies contributing $20 million per year into a “hardship fund” that would be used to bail out taxi drivers who bought into the old system at great cost and are unlikely to recoup their investment.
All that would be required of the city would be for it to drop its proposed wage floors and driver limits for ridesharing companies.
It’s far from “baffling,” as Lyft put it, that the city rejected this offer immediately. This cadre of companies notorious for ignoring and circumventing regulations offering cash for the city to abandon laws governing them must have come across as a brazen attempt to buy their way out of trouble. That the money would theoretically go to New Yorkers in need only makes it look worse when the city rejects the offer.
The effects of these proposed rules are certainly up for debate, and there’s merit to the arguments by rideshare companies that caps would disproportionately affect the outer boroughs and relatively remote areas. And the city really should do something for medallion holders, many of whom have been left hanging by a shifting and uncertain car-hire market that has arguably been inadequately and inequitably regulated.
More importantly to the companies, however, must be that the regulations could very easily take more than $100 million off their collective bottom lines.
That’s why this offer is being made now, in the middle of the PR push to align people against the proposals with scare stories of longer wait times and higher prices. Some of these stories may even prove to be true, and the City Council should definitely be considering such factors as driver turnover on rideshare services and how to accommodate that in caps, or how to intelligently craft fee structures and wage minimums.
Make no mistake, these are not underdogs fighting an uphill battle, but enormous corporations unloading nine figures on very public lobbying efforts.