A new city rule instituting a “cruising cap” on High Volume For-Hire Vehicles (HVFHVs) is not legal, a Manhattan Supreme Court ruled in Dec. The cap would have taken effect in February and would have limited the amount of time e-hail cars could drive around without a passenger in Manhattan, below 96th Street. In his decision, Justice Lyle Frank found the rule to be “arbitrary and capricious” and argued that the city had “scant rationale” for its mechanisms.
Announced back in June as a way to reduce congestion, HVFHV companies would have to ensure drivers are passenger-less no more than 36% of the time while in Manhattan’s “congestion zone.” That rate would have tightened to 31% by Aug.
But Frank said he found no sound reasoning to institute caps at those percentages.
“There is simply no indication where the numbers come from,” he wrote, stating that the city should have conducted a review to calculate cruising rates. Frank also called it “problematic” that the rule would also include the time a driver spends traveling to the next fare, since the city has stated that the congestion stems instead from the time drivers hang around, either driving, parked or double-parked, waiting for their next trip.
Companies would have faced fines or had their operating licenses revoked if they failed to meet the regulations.
De Blasio administration spokesperson Olivia Lapeyrolerie said the city is reviewing legal options, including an appeal. the city has seen a huge surge in e-hailing vehicles in recent years, which studies have shown contribute to the mounting traffic on city streets.
“These corporations have flooded our streets with so many cars that more than 40% drive around empty and clog our streets,” Lapeyrolerie said in a statement. “These 85,000 new vehicles create significant environmental problems, as well as make it a headache for New Yorkers to get around the City in a timely fashion.
The city already incentivizes companies to keep drivers busy with fares. The Taxi & Limousine Commission’s minimum wage requirement, which took effect this past February, requires e-hail companies to pay their drivers $17.22 per hour. If that money is not made through the farebox, the companies are on the hook to pay the difference.