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New Yorkers using Uber today (July 16) found a new option among the car service’s offerings—named after New York’s mayor, Bill de Blasio:

In case you missed it:

What happens if you try to choose the service? You get a political message criticizing a De Blasio-endorsed plan to limit the number of cars on Uber’s platform for the next year while the city studies its traffic problem:

Uber’s spokesman in New York said the time displayed “is a rough estimate of what wait times will be if the Mayor’s cap is in effect for one year. This is based off of the fact that we have 25,000 New Yorkers using the app every week for the first time.”

Growing consumer interest in Uber and other mobile car service apps has led to significant increases in for-hire vehicles on New York streets. De Blasio and his allies on the New York City Council say they must put a cap on new for-hire vehicles while the city studies their effect on congestion; Uber says that De Blasio is simply acting to protect the interests of the city’s street-hail taxi cartel.

While it’s hard to say if the excessive wait times displayed by the Uber app would really result from this cap, it does seem clear that limiting the company’s growth will harm its service. Uber says it would only be able to add 201 cars to its service in the next year under the cap, fewer than currently join the platform in a week.

This in-app political communication is just one more front in the company’s pitched political battle against the cap, including TV ads and mailers attacking pro-cap politicians. A vote on the proposal is expected as soon as next week.

“Mayor de Blasio’s plan to stop Uber will cost 10,000 jobs, hurt underserved areas and make wait times for Uber cars skyrocket,” David Plouffe, the former Obama political adviser hired by Uber to manage its political efforts, said in a statement. “With this view, New York City riders can see for themselves how much time this political payback to big taxi owners will cost them.”

“Now we know where some of that ‘surge pricing’ goes,” De Blasio spokesperson Wiley Norvell told Quartz when asked about the in-app protest. “No company’s political war chest or tactics entitles it to shake off rules meant to protect the public. Uber has run this playbook in cities all over the world to fight basic protections for drivers and passengers, and to keep governments from managing the crush of new cars flooding already crowded streets. It doesn’t matter how many lobbyists Uber hires or ads it runs. We have a job to do to keep this city safe, keep it moving and look out for the public interest.”

Traffic models suggest that the number of new for-hire vehicles in Manhattan are adding to the city’s congestion, but that many other variables also play a part. Transit advocates say a more holistic response that imposes appropriate costs on all the users of New York City streets would be a more effective approach than limiting just one mode of transportation.

Tim Fernholz
Reporter
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