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New York City caps ride-sharing licences for a year

New York City has voted in favour of a series of measures to combat the rapidly rising numbers of for-hire vehicles in the city, aimed at reducing traffic congestion and increasing driver pay.

New York City is capping the number of licences for ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft for one year, in an attempt to reduce traffic congestion and increase driver pay of the city's cab drivers.

The city's council voted on a package of Bills, including to adopt regulations on the number of for-hire vehicle licences in the city as part of a one-year "study", during which time no new for-hire vehicle licences would be issued, with the exception of wheelchair-accessible vehicles.

"This action will stop the influx of cars contributing to the congestion grinding our streets to a halt," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted. "Our city is directly confronting a crisis that is driving working New Yorkers into poverty and our streets into gridlock. The unchecked growth of app-based for-hire vehicle companies has demanded action -- and now we have it.

"More than 100,000 workers and their families will see an immediate benefit from this legislation ... I look forward to signing these Bills into law."

Council member Stephen Levin said the number of ride-sharing vehicles in New York has increased dramatically, "snarling traffic and sparking a race to the bottom where all drivers are struggling to make more than poverty wages".

The number of ride-hailing vehicles operating in New York has jumped from about 12,600 in 2015 to around 80,000 this year, according to the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission -- nearly six times as many as the 14,000 yellow cabs in the city.

Lyft responded to the regulation with a statement that said the cuts "will bring New Yorkers back to an era of struggling to get a ride, particularly for communities of colour and in the outer boroughs".

Uber also said that "the city's 12-month pause on new vehicle licences will threaten one of the few reliable transportation options while doing nothing to fix the subways or ease congestion".

In emails to nearly 5 million New Yorkers last month, Uber said riders would be hurt most by the limit on numbers and would face higher prices, longer wait times, and less service in the city's outer suburbs.

Uber has had a fractured relationship with the Big Apple; last year, it admitted to underpaying its New York City drivers tens of millions of dollars for the previous two and a half years. The company said each affected driver would get a refund of about $900.

Months later, Uber agreed to pay $3 million in compensation, denying the allegations in the settlement agreement but settling to pay to avoid further legal fees, according to ZDNet's sister site CNET.

Uber also found itself in hot water in New York at the start of 2017 when it continued to service JFK airport in the midst of an hour-long taxi union strike to protest President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration.

The company's CEO at the time, Travis Kalanick, quit Trump's business advisory group as a result of the president's immigration policies, with the company also saying it would pay any of its drivers affected by Trump's immigration ban for three months.

Over in the UK, Uber lost its licence to operate in London back in September, after the UK Transport for London authority deemed the service "not fit and proper" to hold a private hire operator licence.

In June, however, the service was granted a 15-month "short-term" licence in the city after a court hearing, putting the the service "on probation", according to London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

"I fully supported Transport for London's decision not to renew Uber's operating licence last September -- I believe everyone must play by the same rules, no matter how big or powerful they are," he said at the time.

"As a result of us standing up Londoners, Uber has been forced to overhaul the way it operates not just in London but across the world, including completely changing its global governance structures and implementing new systems for reporting alleged crimes."

Uber also lost its operating licence in York and Sheffield, as well as Brighton, according to Reuters.

In Australia, ride-sharing services became legal in all states and territories -- apart from the Northern Territory -- after much legal back and forth. Queensland approved a Bill to compensate taxi drivers in December 2016 after a ban was passed earlier that year, which not only banned Uber, but also inadvertently made charter bus services, tourist services, chartered school bus services, community transport services, limousine services, shuttle services, and hotel accommodation transfer services illegal if not operated by a licensed taxi.

The Victorian government, meanwhile, attached a AU$2 levy to taxi and ride-sharing fares in the state as part of deeming services such as Uber officially legal.

In Asia, Grab took over Uber's operations and assets in Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam earlier this year. The merger was later found to impede Singapore market competition.

With AAP

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