Oct 16, 2014 · 2 minutes

Following a series of arguments from stakeholders across the taxi, car service, and ridesharing spectrum, New York City's Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) decided to postpone a vote on controversial rule changes governing ridesharing services today.

The current rules allow for a driver who works for a black car service to also accept rides through Uber or Lyft without any fuss. The TLC's proposal, however, would require drivers to align themselves with just one company or "base" at a time. If the proposal is approved, Uber or Lyft would only be allowed to dispatch drivers from their own bases, unless they strike a formal agreement with another base. The companies would also be required to submit electronic trip logs to the base where the driver is registered.

It's a complicated and divisive issue, and Buzzfeed's Johana Bhuiyan, who reported from the hearing, has a great rundown of the proceedings. In short, old school livery and black car services support the rule change, Uber opposes it, and Lyft really opposes it. Meanwhile, drivers, the group the proposal is theoretically designed to help most, are split.

One on hand, as Uber Drivers of New York leader Abdoulrahime Diallo said on a recent conference call, “If the TLC makes it a one-base rule, it would protect the market itself. That’s what it should be. Just like companies compete for clients. We are the ones who are doing the work.”

On the other hand, many drivers enjoy the freedom of working for whomever, whenever they want. Representatives from Uber and Lyft agreed, arguing that more freedom allows for more cars on the road, more pick-ups, and greater incomes for everyone involved.

In addition to the driver split, another major factor that complicates the issue for the TLC involves Lyft. Bhuiyan writes that Lyft only has ten drivers registered to its base. She quotes David Estrada, Lyft's Vice President of Government Relations, who argued,

Here’s what I think is going to happen. We are going to be forced to go lure the drivers to leave their affiliated base and go work with us, so we go and we lure these drivers with bonus payments…At the end of the day, the largest player — I will not name names — who is the most well capitalized even though they don’t like this rule, they’re incentivized by this rule to pay very, very large bonus payments to get enough drivers to affiliate with them.
So basically the TLC had two choices: Alienate its black car and livery constituents, along with many drivers, by voting against the rule change, or risk the creation of an Uber monopoly and still manage to alienate many drivers. Does your head hurt as much as mine? No wonder the commissioners punted today.

[illustration by Brad Jonas]