Jörg Schubert

‘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.’

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,

13 thoughts on “CityViews: Hold Uber and Lyft Accountable for Shortchanging Drivers

  1. Pingback: Uber rejects MIT study that shows ride-hailing drivers make under $4 an hour 2018 – Android ABC

  2. I live in New York City and use Uber a lot and talk to the drivers. My experience has been most of the drivers work part time mostly evenings and weekends. Some have claimed they make more money on weekends then their weekly day job. Some are in school and drive for extra money. So your assumptions aren’t completely accurate. The taxi drivers are typically not the owners of the medallion which is quite costly to obtain. They don’t own the taxis, so the taxis are in terrible condition. I could write pages on the differences. There is no contest between the two enterprises from a consumer point of view. Uber is truly the winner. It’s a brilliant concept.

    • I am FHV driver and I don’t agree with what you’re saying about drivers working part time. With all of the DMV/TLC fees and costly commercial insurance you CANNOT work part time in NYC it doesn’t make any sense at all.

    • Those drivers are afraid of telling the truth that may not like and would leave a bad rating. I drove for Lyft several weeks full time as a social experiment of my own research. I had to spend over 45 – 80 hrs (6-10 hrs everyday) and 1200 -1500 miles each week to complete the requirements for the bonuses. Without the bonuses, I would end up getting $4-6 / hr after deducting GAS, CAR INSURANCE & MAINTENANCE, BUSINESS LICENSE, and SELF EMPLOYMENT TAXES. That does not even include the health insurance costs. With the bonuses, I was able to up it to about $6-7 / hr. If I keep driving full time for Lyft, I would have to replace my car the next year. That would make my earnings basically back to $4-5 / hr after the bonuses.

    • Would your conclusion change if the taxi medallions were owned mostly by the drivers, or if Uber stopped subsidizing your ride (remember, they lost 4.5 billion last year), or if it clearly shown that the unrestricted number of Uber/Lyft has a negative impact on the environment? Probably not. And why should it as long as the trips, for whatever the reasons, remain cheap and convenient for YOU.

  3. Pingback: Uber rejects MIT study that shows ride-hailing drivers make under $4 an hour | Viral News Everyday

  4. Pingback: With a Single, Insulting Tweet, Uber's CEO Just Destroyed Months of Hard Work – Viral News Everyday

  5. Upton Sinclair once famously said, “I aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach.” I think he was referring to his work, “The Jungle” where his intent was to expose the terrible working conditions in the meat packing plants at the turn of the century, but the “public” (being the selfish pigs we are) instead fell into an uproar about the sanitation of the food. Sadly, the working conditions of the workers fell by the wayside. Problem for Sinclair was that with the exception of the few “muckrakers”, the establishment journalists and politicians at that time prioritized their stories through the needs of their stomach as well, both literally (we all eat) and figuratively (who pays the bills).

    So it is today, unfortunately, same as yesterday….. that as long as Uber is making my transportation cheap and convenient, especially since they’re subsidizing my ride at the tune of $4.5 Billion last year, who cares that they’re decimating a taxi industry that once provided sustainable income for tens of thousands of families and replacing it with hundreds of thousands of less than minimum wage part-time gigs?

    Kalanick (Libertarian), in a sense, was a lot smarter than Sinclair (Idealist). Kalanick’s aim has always been at the stomach because he knows that human nature is to speak from the heart but act with the stomach. That is why self-sacrifice and heroism are as rare as greed and hypocrisy are common.

    I fear that we have no muckrakers left?

  6. The term “rideshare” is a gross inaccuracy. Nobody is sharing rides or anything else. The drivers buy or lease cars by virtue of Uber’s direction to an auto dealer or leasing company. Most of these drivers never owned a car until then. Suckered in by promises of huge incomes, drivers are churned at horrifying rates annually. Horror stories abound of drivers not knowing the geography, being neophyte operators, and vehicles starting to breakdown as they age with multiple lease drivers. This is a technology enabled taxi company who has been allowed to break all norms and rules in order to destroy a system that gave life to many poor immigrants.

  7. Lyft wants drivers to drive 31 min, 25 min to pick up passengers. If you don’t accept these request you receive a text message and email that this is not good for the Lyft Community and passengers not to accept these request. Driver’s are expected to drive this distance without getting paid. Driver’s are supposed to be independent contractor. But are treated with deactivation of their account, if they continue not to accept these request. Lyft actually put drivers in a 30 min timeout for not accepting ride request. Driver’s are actually employees who are reprimanded.

  8. By all means I don’t aim to violate anyone’s right to privacy … I’m only suggesting this as an avenue for WILLING drivers to defend themselves against false accusations … my social media is full of posts of me exercising my right to speech and speaking loudly against Uber’s bs and abuse to drivers and I believe I was kicked off the platform because of it … so I totally understand your concerns in regards to your rights being violated…please understand …my aim is to provide an avenue for the drivers to prove themselves innocent by willingly submitting to such tests … right now if a driver is reported by rider … Uber puts a hold on the account for 24 hours mandatory….. the driver at this time has no choice but to await his/her fate from Uber’s safety team … what I’m proposing allows the driver to go directly to the nearest station and prove they aren’t in fact driving impaired… and if they are able to do that and get cleared to by local authorities to drive … then the driver should be allowed back on platform immediately and reimbursed for lost income and any cost incurred… too many drivers are getting hurt by false reports of impaired driving by riders just to get their monies back … in my case the rider that reported me only took 19 lifetime trips with Uber and she had complained on 12 of her drivers … this is fact … reported above 65% of the drivers … the rep at the Uber green light hub even called the rider a pathological lied and advocated for but got in trouble for doing so … this could have helped me defend my self … thanks for expressing your ideas

  9. As a man of large stature and a person of color, I thank my lucky stars for Uber every time I need to hail a cab. No more waiting in the rain watching driver after driver bypass me for more “desirable” passengers downstream. I can finally get around in a reasonable amount of time without the indignity of being racially profiled.

    No sympathy in my heart for racist cabbies.

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