London Mayor Asks for Power to Cap Number of Uber Vehicles

Could London follow the example of New York?

AP Photo/Matt Dunham

Uber recently scored a major victory in London when a court reinstated its operator license. But the company may be on the verge of another fight with regulators. The Guardian reports that London Mayor Sadiq Khan is seeking to cap the number of ride-hailing vehicles.

New York City recently approved a one-year moratorium on new licenses for vehicles from services like Uber and Lyft while officials study the industry. The legislation also empowers the city government to set minimum pay rates for drivers. Khan is seeking the power to do something similar in London.

In public comments, Khan said the "unsustainable rise" in for-hire vehicles has led to increased air pollution and traffic congestion. Like New York City officials, he also said the rise of Uber has had a negative impact on driver livelihoods. New York's taxi industry has been laid low by ride hailing, but ride-hailing drivers must shoulder vehicle-operating costs, reducing the amount of money they pocket.

The number of for-hire drivers in London has increased from 59,000 from 2009 to 2010 to 114,000 from 2017 to 2018, according to The Guardian. About 45,000 of those drivers work for Uber. Over the same period, the number of taxi drivers has fallen by about 1,000, to 24,000 drivers.

In a statement to The Guardian, and Uber spokesperson addressed the issues of air pollution and traffic, but not driver pay.

"Uber is committed to helping address congestion and air pollution and we strongly support the Mayor's ultra low emission zone," the spokesperson said. "Already more than half of the miles traveled with Uber are in hybrid or electric vehicles. By competing with private cars, getting more people into fewer vehicles and investing in our clean air plan, we can be a part of the solution in London."

Uber recently won a 15-month probationary license, after Transport for London (TfL), the city's transportation agency, declined to renew its license in September 2017. TfL's decision was based on concerns over certain Uber policies, such as how the company conducted background checks and reported crimes committed by its drivers. 

Uber must now submit an independently-verified audit of its operations every six months and adhere to specific rules for reporting crimes committed by drivers, complaints from passengers, and making changes to its data policies.