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Taxi and Limousine Commission

Judge Blocks City From Its Plan to Issue Unlimited EV Uber/Lyft Licenses

The ruling comes mere days after the alliance representing cab drivers sued the city over its plan for an unlimited number of new licenses for electric app-based cabs.

10:48 AM EST on November 9, 2023

Photo: Josh Katz|

Judge Machelle Sweeting has temporarily blocked a city plan to unleash unlimited numbers of electric cabs on city streets.

That was fast.

Mere days after the alliance representing cab drivers sued the city over its plan for an unlimited number of new licenses for electric app-based cabs, a judge has blocked implementation of a program that taxi drivers had called, "a surprisingly brazen violation of TLC’s own rules."

Judge Machelle Sweeting will allow any license requests that are already underway to proceed, but no new ones can begin starting on Monday. The TLC has received 1,746 applications, albeit mostly from existing drivers, and has reportedly only issued nine new licenses.

But cabbies are worried that roads would soon be congested with thousands of new Ubers and Lyft cars, albeit electric ones. That's why the New York Taxi Workers Alliance sued last week in Manhattan Supreme Court, arguing that there will be "considerable impacts" of the new e-vehicles about which the TLC has done "no analysis, modeling or other material reflecting," as Streetsblog previously reported.

Just 5,000 more app-based taxis would cause more congestion, more traffic deaths and more pollution, even if the vehicles run on electricity, according to Komanoff's analysis. The analysis relied on Komanoff's "Balanced Transportation Analyzer," an essential tool for understanding traffic movements based on any changes, such as more vehicles or different tolling, among other inputs. Also, the city's electrical grid relies almost entirely on fossil fuels, as Streetsblog also reported.

The Daily News first reported on the temporary restraining order on Thursday morning.

It is not clear exactly what Sweeting's ruling was based on, as the lawsuit not only cites environmental concerns in an affidavit by traffic expert Charles Komanoff, but also other issues such as the impact on yellow cab drivers' livelihoods.

“The addition of an unlimited number of new cars to the roads will have a disastrous impact on driver income and signals a return to the city’s laissez-faire attitude of the previous decade,” the suit by the New York Taxi Workers Alliance stated.

TLC First Deputy Commissioner Ryan Wanttaja defended the program and suggested the city will prevail when the full suit is heard.

“Resuming the issuance of EV licenses not only promises long-term environmental benefits but also relief for drivers stuck in predatory leasing arrangements," Wanttaja said in a statement. "A halt on this initiative is nothing short of a loss for drivers who dream of small business ownership in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way. TLC remains dedicated to prioritizing the best interests of drivers, and we will make that case in court. At the other end of this trip is a greener, more inclusive city with healthier air, a cleaner environment, and more economic opportunities for working-class New Yorkers.”

Taxi Workers Alliance Executive Director Bhairavi Desai flat out disagreed.

"The Taxi and Limousine Commission needs to hit pause," she said, "on saturating the streets with unlimited cars and instead pass regulations that will protect drivers against predatory leasing and financing and against economic despair."

She focused mainly on the devastation that cabbies have been experiencing since the emergence of Uber and Lyft a decade ago cratered the medallion market. The numbers of Uber and Lyft cabs is capped, but the new rule allows unlimited electric versions.

"We're calling on the TLC to do right by drivers not to recreate the conditions that left drivers in debt and despair before we initially won the vehicle cap in 2018," Desai added. "We won't let the Taxi and Limousine Commission undo the years of progress drivers have made toward economic stability."

"Lifting the vehicle cap would be a disaster for drivers and for our congested roads," she added.

This is a breaking story and will be updated soon.

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