Whether you love them or hate them, rideshares like Uber and Lyft have become a daily part of life for millions of New Yorkers. These app-based services make it easy to pay for your ride, but while the privacy cost isn’t always as clear, it’s about to get a lot larger. These apps have tracked our movements since they launched, but as of this month, the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) started tracking us too.
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Angie Schmitt's list of "all the bad things" about Uber and Lyft only touches on transportation, leaving aside the companies' labor, taxation, regulatory and other issues, but it's still quite a damning document.
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My latest Locus Magazine column is "Disruption for Thee, But Not for Me," and it analyzes how Big Tech has been able to "disrupt" incumbent industries, but has repurposed obscure technology regulations to prevent anyone from meting out the same treatment to their new digital monopolies.
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We've talked before about how hard it is for folks driving for Lyft and Uber to break even. Things aren't so hot for cab drivers, either: as ridesharing becomes more prevalent by the day, those who own their own taxi or drive for someone else are finding it harder to make a living. The drop in revenue going into the pockets of New York City Taxi medallion owners has been so extreme that drivers have been forced to work 100-hour weeks just to stay out of the red. Others, feeling that their lives were ruined by mounting debt, out of desperation committed suicide. Today, New York City's Taxi and Limousine Commission decided that they'd do something about it.
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Today, New York’s City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission approved measures to enact minimum pay requirements for app-based for-hire vehicles (FHV) like Uber, Lyft, and Juno. The new pay structure is set to take effect early in the new year.
The $26.51 per hour gross pay floor (estimated to amount to $17.22 per hour, less expenses) comes after “growing evidence of declining driver pay” was confirmed by a labor study, commissioned by the TLC, which concluded that 85 percent of drivers in NYC were earning less than the local minimum wage of $15 an hour. The new requirements will increase the average driver’s take-home pay by an estimated $9,600 per year.
Advocacy groups like the Independent Driver’s Guild and Amalgamated Transit Union have celebrated the change. “All workers deserve the protection of a fair, livable wage and we are proud to be setting the new bar for contractor workers’ rights in America,” Conigliaro, Jr., founder of IDG, wrote in a press statement.
Lyft has teamed up with the Urban League, Voto Latino, the Urban League and the National Federation of the Blind to offer free and half-price rides to the polls for voters on November 6. "Transportation issues" were cited as reasons for not voting by 28% of Americans earning less than $20,000 who did not vote in the 2012 presidential election.
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After a long day of driving for Uber and Lyft, this fella decided to work out exactly how much money he'd be taking home after paying taxes and expenses on his income as an independent contractor. While there's certainly a number of tax loopholes and write-offs that he could be taking advantage of, it looks like, for most people, driving for Uber or Lyft isn't worth the time. Read the rest
Leonard Steinberg, a longstanding New York City luxury property broker, claims that the existence of Uber and Lyft has blunted the premium that buyers were willing to pay to live in neighborhoods with good transit links, because they can afford rideshare cars and use the commute time to work, meaning that commutes are less of a factor in calculating the quality of life (because your day starts when you get into the car, not when you get to your desk).
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Shakespeare wrote that "All the world's a stage." But for Oakland, California-based Ashel Eldridge, he's made his car his stage. Dubbed "The Lyft Rapper," he invites his passengers to choose a topic and style of song and he'll make up a song about it on the spot.
KQED Arts writes:
Elridge, who also goes by the emcee name Seasunz, says his mission is to elevate the consciousness of his community by helping people understand the forces that may be manipulating them.
His passengers say they’re startled at first when their Lyft driver begins rapping to them. But after the song, they admit the Lyft Rapper has turned a typically mundane trip into an unforgettable experience.
Here's his most recent video:
Yes, he has his passengers sign releases. And no, I don't believe he's sponsored in any way by Lyft. Read the rest
On FT's Alphaville, Izabella Kaminska takes note of the excellent, deep series on Uber's Ponzi-economics that Hubert Horan published last year on Naked Capitalism and calls out some juicy highlights. Read the rest
Libretaxi is an open source project that lets anyone become a rideshare driver in less than a minute; it has more than 20,000 users worldwide, and is maintained by Roman Pushkin, who started the project in December 2016 and is now planning to quit his job and work on it full time. Read the rest
What's a driver to do to kill time between rideshare gigs? For Noah Forman, the answer was trying to set a record for most consecutive green lights. He hits about 240 green lights in a row in this video.
This seems much safer and more fun than the knucklehead who set the fastest lap around Manhattan, an honor that landed him in jail:
• Noah hits 240 green lights. (Vimeo / Shawn Swetsky) Read the rest
Isis Shiffer just won a Dyson design award for the EcoHelmet, an ingenious paper helmet that folds down to the size of a banana but offers significant noggin protection. Read the rest
Juno is a "driver-friendly" rideshare service that competes with Uber by paying its drivers more and giving drivers the ability to pick up a fare, get them to install the Juno app, and give them a discount. Read the rest
People's Ride is a co-op ride-hailing company in Grand Rapids, Michigan: drivers own the service in common and collectively decide how to spend its profits (for example, on deploying an app to go with its website); for-profit competitors like Uber take 30% commissions from their drivers and deliver them to investors, while People's Ride spends all the revenue paying drivers and improving the service. Read the rest
Uber and Lyft are only economically viable because they offload their cost of capital -- the investment and depreciation on cars and the cost of keeping a driver fed and healthy -- onto the drivers, who are only willing to accept such a bad deal because the labor market sucks. Read the rest