New Regulations for Uber, Lyft Will Make NYC Streets Safer and Transit Planning Smarter

Say goodbye to the 24/7 taxi driver and say hello to new transit data.

Recent regulation approved by the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) requires all licensed on-demand car services, from taxis to ride-hailing app companies like Lyft, Uber and Via to prevent deadly crashes by limiting the hours drivers can work. The new Fatigued Driving Rule prohibits drivers of for-hire vehicles from transporting passengers for more than 10 hours in a 24 hour period or over 60 hours in a week.

While the TLC has set the standard working conditions for cabbies for the past 45 years, they have never regulated the shift lengths of drivers. The impetus for this new ruling was the tragic death last year of Luisa Rosario in a crash with a taxi driver who had been driving for 16 hours with few breaks.

This rule is an important step towards making the city’s streets safer.

With long working hours, driver inattention increases and driver fatigue is a core concern for the city’s Vision Zero goals. Last year 114 people died in traffic crashes while walking NYC streets, most of them were seniors like Luisa Rosario or children. Half of all pedestrian traffic deaths are linked to dangerous driver choices—with inattention, speeding, failure to yield as the main causes of a crash.

But the benefits of the new TLC rule go beyond safety.

The new regulation also means that yellow and green cabs and companies like Uber and Lyft alike will be required to share their trip records with the TLC. This will allow the commission to enforce the rule while also assisting transit planners in understanding the full role that these private companies play in our city’s transportation network.

The location data gathered by Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) such as Lyft, Uber, Via and others, has quickly become the most contentious element of this rule change. Trip records collected by the TLC will include the pickup and drop-off location of trips with either GPS coordinates, addresses or locations mapped to the closest intersection. Prior to this ruling, TNCs only have been required to provide the pickup location. The TLC will report trip record data publicly on their open data portal, roughly 3-6 months after trips take place. Trip records will be aggregated to a neighborhood level and will not provide personal or demographic data of app users. (Currently, the TLC provides pickup and drop-off data for yellow and green cabs and companies like Uber and Lyft already anonymize their app users’ information when they provide pickup and drop-off data to share with researchers at MIT and UC Berkeley.)

Beyond ensuring that taxi and for-hire-vehicle drivers are not working arduously long shifts and putting New Yorkers at undue risk, the new rule provides the link between the beginning and end of the trips taken in over 88,000 cars across New York City each day. The insight this data provides will highlight the transportation needs of New York City both now and in the future. Knowing the complete trip for thousands of rides each year will help planners, researchers and policymakers integrate these vehicles into a combined mobility transportation network for NYC.

We’ve already seen the impact that open trip data can have. Take Citi Bike, for example. By making its trip data available, Citi Bike has become an extension of mass transit networks in New York and Jersey City. Citi Bike provides ridership and trip data with no specific information on users, safeguarding users’ privacy. The location of bikeshare stations and the systems operation is continually being improved as ridership data is provided to not only city agencies but also researchers and the civic tech community. For-hire vehicles are part of New York City’s larger transportation network, and moving toward combined mobility requires data sharing.

Outside of New York City, the State Senate has passed legislation that lays the groundwork for regulating TNCs throughout New York state. This legislation also includes a 2% fee per trip, less than Governor Cuomo’s 5.5% fee per trip. Revenues will go into a transit assistance fund and be used for transportation improvements outside of NYC. The Senate bill requires TNCs to report trip records though the bill does not clearly describe the data to be provided and only a sample of records will be audited by the State DMV.

Moving forward, the Governor and State Legislature should incorporate clear data sharing standards for TNCs. Doing so will open the door for combined mobility to become a reality for communities outside of New York City. Knowing where an on-demand car trip begins and ends will help the region build a more diverse, efficient and safer transportation system.

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