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New York City Council votes to limit number of Uber, Lyft vehicles

The cap will freeze new vehicle licenses for one year while the city figures out the next steps.

Sarah Tew/CNET

At the end of July, we learned that the New York City Council was looking into capping the number of ride-sharing vehicles in the city while it tried to figure out related issues like congestion. It didn't take long for that cap to actually be voted into existence.

The New York City Council on Wednesday approved a cap on the number of ride-hailing vehicles in the city. The cap will halt new ride-hailing vehicle licenses for one year while the council investigates how to mitigate issues that came with the influx of companies like Uber and Lyft, mostly related to congestion and driver wages. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio still needs to sign it into law, but it's believed that he will do that soon.

Uber and Lyft users might have to wait a bit longer for a ride when the cap is put in effect -- or they could just walk to the curb and lift up an arm, like we all used to.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The cap was given support from New York's taxi industry, which has seen wages falling and drivers expressing concern over long-term employment. The hits to the taxi industry reportedly contributed to the deaths of multiple drivers in past months. Those wage concerns aren't limited to taxi drivers, though -- in fact, the New York Times reports that nearly 40 percent of the city's ride-hailing drivers qualify for Medicaid because their take-home wages are that low. Nearly one in five qualify for food stamps. The City Council also passed a bill today addressing minimum pay for drivers.

Ride-hailing companies aren't exactly pleased. "These sweeping cuts to transportation will bring New Yorkers back to an era of struggling to get a ride, particularly for communities of color and in the outer boroughs," said Joseph Okpaku, Lyft's vice president of public policy, in an emailed statement. "We will never stop working to ensure New Yorkers have access to reliable and affordable transportation in every borough." Uber did not immediately return a request for comment.

The New York City Council originally mulled a similar ban in 2015, but it stepped away from the issue before any legislation was approved. Since then, the number of ride-hailing vehicles on New York roads has more than tripled, according to The Wall Street Journal.

This cap is the first of its kind in the country, and if it proves successful in addressing issues related to ride hailing, other cities could follow suit. That wouldn't bode well for Uber, which is considering going public next year.