Tuesday, August 14, 2018
New York Times: Uber and Lyft Drivers Rush to Register Cars Ahead of City’s New Cap
By Mariana Alfaro
In the pouring rain, hundreds of people lined up outside a building in Queens on Monday, clutching umbrellas and paperwork. The frenzy was not driven by a buzzy new restaurant or a new Apple store. Instead the line led to an Uber office and was prompted by the City Council’s recent decision to limit ride-hail apps by imposing a cap on new vehicle licenses.
For hours, drivers waited outside the building in Long Island City for Uber workers to let them in and to register their cars as for-hire vehicles before the legislation goes into effect. Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he is planning to sign the bill into law on Tuesday.
Mohammed Kabir, 47, a driver from Queens, said he spent four hours before emerging from Uber’s office with his paperwork in order. He said he had arrived at 7 a.m., hoping to beat the crowd, and despite the long wait he said he was content that he now had what he needed to beat the deadline.
Since the Council’s vote on the new regulations, which includes establishing a minimum pay rate, Uber had been encouraging existing drivers and others who wanted to become drivers for the tech giant to make sure they applied for the special license plates needed to register private cars as ride-hail vehicles. Once the legislation becomes law, no new licenses, with the exception of wheelchair accessible vehicles, will be granted for a year while the city studies the impact of the ride-hail industry.
Some drivers waited for almost two hours before being shepherded inside. Red Ferhani, 32, said he had been driving for Uber for almost three years by renting cars from other Uber drivers. Tired of losing part of his profit to rental fees, Mr. Ferhani said he wanted to register his own vehicle while he still could.
“I guess everybody’s doing this last minute,” said Mr. Ferhani as he approached the front of the line. Despite the hassle, Mr. Ferhani said he supported the cap.
“I think there’s enough Uber cars out there, it’s already enough,” he said.
Some drivers at Uber’s offices said they had not had enough time to get their documents and licensing fees in order. To register a car as a for-hire vehicle, owners must complete an online application with the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission, have commercial insurance for their car and pay a $550 to $625 fee, depending on their car’s mileage.
Deniz Osor, 37, was in line only because his friend had warned him days before that the window to apply was closing. Mr. Osor scrambled to get his paperwork in order.
“They should’ve actually extended the time for at least another two weeks,” Mr. Osor said.
Alix Anfang, a spokeswoman for Uber, said the City Council and Mr. de Blasio had rushed the cap through “without stopping to think about the consequences for hard-working drivers who have been saving up to get out of a rental and into a car they own.”
Jose Reyes, an Uber driver from Brooklyn, said he knew people who bought cars in order to register them before the cap was passed.
Uber had prepared for the surge of drivers to its New York offices by shifting employees from New Jersey and Connecticut and opening their doors an hour early. Despite the extra hands, applicants said they were expecting the process to take two to three hours. The usual wait time in the Queens office, according to an Uber worker, is usually 20 minutes.
Frustrated with how slow the line was on Sunday, Syed Hassan, an Uber driver, left after an hour.
The line, he said, went around the building. “There were more than 1,000” drivers waiting, he estimated. Still, he returned on Monday with a friend to keep him company.
The crowd on Monday was smaller, but that did not make it any less hectic. Uber workers admonished drivers to stay in an orderly line. Once inside, drivers were directed to the second floor where they were given instructions, depending on the stage of their applications.
Some drivers, after seeing the long list of requirements, decided to wait until the cap is lifted before registering their car. Diakanke Bah, 28, was on her way out after being told that she would probably not meet the deadline since she still had to get a for-hire driver’s license.
“If I do get my license, I will have to probably rent out someone who has already registered with the T.L.C., but it won’t be with my car,” she said.
Copyright 2018 The New York Times Company. All rights reserved.
Posted by James Shenwick