(The Center Square) — A state judge’s order to New York City to stop issuing taxi licenses to new vehicles went into effect on Monday amid an escalating fight over expanding the city’s fleet of for-hire electric vehicles that could impact Mayor Eric Adams’ climate change policies.
The ruling by Acting Supreme Court Justice Machelle Sweeting stems from a lawsuit filed by the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, which represents taxi medallion owners and drivers, seeking to block the move by the city Taxi and Limousine Commission to issue licenses for e-vehicles to Uber, Lyft and other for-hire companies.
The plaintiffs argue the new policy “dismantles the guardrails” that the city has set to prevent the over-issuance of licenses, “having recognized the harms of vehicle oversaturation on driver income after years of unchecked growth in the FHV industry, which led to an ever-growing pool of vehicles and drivers competing for a finite number of trips.”
The rule expanding the number of taxi medallions for e-vehicles is a key plank of Adam’s climate change plans, which called for making New York City’s massive taxi fleet fully electric by 2030, among other mandates.
Beginning in 2024, New York City will require 5% of all “high-volume” for-hire trips to be sent to EVs or wheelchair-accessible vehicles, under the new rules, that will rise to 15% in 2025 and 25% in 2026. The requirements will increase annually by 20% until the decade’s end.
Uber and Lyft, which combined have more than 78,000 rideshare vehicles on the road in New York City, have committed to the shift to an e-vehicle fleet in the city by 2030. City officials say the new licenses for green taxis could expand the fleet to about 100,000 drivers.
“Anyone with an electric vehicle can put in an application to be a rideshare driver, put even more New Yorkers on the road to opportunity, jobs, employment, economic possibilities but doing it in a clean way,” Adams, a Democrat, said in recent remarks on the new policy.
However, critics have argued that the e-taxi expansion will add to traffic woes in the Big Apple and undermine the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s efforts to reduce gridlock and get more people to ride the public transit system.
Taxi drivers argue that the move will cheapen the value of existing taxicab licenses and put drivers whose livelihoods depend on it out of work.
Taxi Workers Alliance Executive Director Bhairavi Desai said the commission “needs to hit pause” on the expansion plans and stop “saturating the streets with unlimited cars and instead pass regulations that will protect drivers against predatory leasing and financing and against economic despair.”
In a statement, the TLC’s First Deputy Commissioner Ryan Wanttaja said the judge’s ruling halting new licenses is “nothing short of a loss for drivers who dream of small business ownership in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way” and predicted that the city would ultimately prevail in the legal fight.
“TLC remains dedicated to prioritizing the best interests of drivers, and we will make that case in court,” she said. “At the other end of this trip is a greener, more inclusive city with healthier air, a cleaner environment, and more economic opportunities for working-class New Yorkers.”