A new independent study confirms something many stakeholders already knew – Uber and Lyft drivers are, on average, not making anywhere close to a living wage. As elected officials in New York City continue discussing how to properly regulate ridesharing companies, it is time for them to finally hold Uber and Lyft accountable for shortchanging drivers and preventing them from earning a decent living.
A new report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) revealed that the median hourly earnings for Uber and Lyft drivers in the U.S. are just $3.37. It also found that 74 percent of those drivers earn less than the minimum wage in their state, and 30 percent are actually losing money once vehicle expenses are included.
To be clear, these are multi-billion-dollar companies that have been given free rein to expand in so-called progressive bastions like New York City. As the yellow taxi industry remains capped, as it has always been, Uber, Lyft and other ridesharing companies now have approximately 100,000 vehicles on the road here in New York.
And as that growth disparity continues, let’s remember that while so many ridesharing drivers cannot even make a living wage, according to the city’s Taxi & Limousine Commission, the average hourly earnings for a yellow taxi driver in New York City are approximately $30. Yellow taxi drivers also get much-needed support from their fleet owners and other stakeholders in contrast to their ridesharing counterparts who are constantly disregarded by corporate bosses.
With more of these facts now plainly out in the open, how is it possible that New York City’s government and elected officials continue giving Uber and Lyft a free pass when it comes to the regulations already faced by the taxi industry? How do they allow drivers to be underpaid and the public overcharged? We ask: how is that progressive?
Aside from refusing to institute a cap on ridesharing vehicles, city officials have of course declined to compel Uber and Lyft to adhere to other regulations followed by taxis, such as our mandate to reach 50 percent accessibility by 2020, or to help fund desperately needed repairs to the trains by paying 50 cents per trip to the MTA.
At the same time, state officials are now considering congestion pricing plans to deal with gridlock that only become so bad because their city counterparts failed to cap the growth of these companies in the first place. It is particularly concerning that state government may be considering congestion pricing plans that would hit both ridesharing companies and the taxi industry with the same types fees, even though taxis have already contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to mass-transit infrastructure since 2009, while Uber and Lyft have comparatively contributed virtually nothing.
So, what will it take for New York officials to finally step up and hold Uber and Lyft accountable for damaging the for-hire vehicle industry in ways that have so severely harmed drivers and prevented them from earning a living wage? As all of these regulatory debates continue this year, will anyone have the courage to stand up to these multi-billion-dollar companies?
It seems as though that would be the progressive thing to do.
David Beier is the president of the Committee for Taxi Safety,