If you're in New York City and you open the Uber app today, you'll find a new ride option next to the big list of its usual choices: "DE BLASIO." It's not a way to get a ride, obviously. Instead, it's a way to needle the New York City mayor and to try to get Uber users to pressure him to back off on proposed legislation that could seriously hamper Uber's growth efforts in the city.
Uber is dealing with push-back from regulators and taxi companies all around the world, but in New York City it's about to face one of its biggest fights yet. Mayor Bill de Blasio is backing a city council proposal that would temporarily freeze all new licenses for "for-hire" vehicles. The freeze would come so that the city could create a study on traffic congestion, which the administration believes is getting worse thanks to ride-sharing. The New York Taxi and Limousine Commission is backing it, saying, "The onslaught of vehicles is so tremendous that it seems actually irresponsible not to legislate in some way," according to The New York Times.
Of course, Uber paints the freeze in much more dire terms, arguing that "10,000 expected new jobs would evaporate" and that there would be no reduction in congestion if the freeze happens. It's making that argument at a petition site and sending users there directly from the de Blasio ride option in the app. When you select it, the map of available cars in the city is emptied out and the "wait time" for a ride rises to 25 minutes. Tap in and you're greeted by a pop-up exhorting you to sign Uber's petition. It's not Uber's first attempt to stop the legislation, as Business Insider reports. Last month it offered free rides to anybody who showed up to a protest it organized. It's also been airing commercials on local television.
The city council vote on the legislation is expected to come next week, and it's likely that the very public battle will only intensify until it happens.