It's official: one of the biggest players in the sharing economy was at war with the biggest city in the United States, and the outcome determined the staying power of one of most disruptive movements of our time.
This month, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio proposed legislation that would freeze new Uber licenses for one year because of the impact the influx of drivers has had on city traffic. How did he justify this? In recent years, traffic congestion has increased in Manhattan, running 9% slower. Simultaneously, the number of vehicles entering the city also dropped, but the number of for-hire-vehicles has boomed to the tune of 63%. Early analytics can easily blame Uber for tying up traffic, but the mayor wants to take the year freeze to do a deeper dive into the hows and whys. Streestblog.com reports that the ultimate goal of the study is to create a "new regulatory regime for car services."
Uber didn't take this proposal well.
Yesterday Uber took out a large (and likely very expensive) ad on the NYTimes.com homepage, citing an editorial in which the Times called de Blasio's proposal a "bad idea," and instead proposed other ideas to deal with increased traffic congestion.
Uber has also been running emotional TV spots on local NYC channels, running campaigns in the app (including a de Blasio-targeted prank wherein users were shown a message saying no cars were available), and the Uber CEO Travis Kalanick went on a retweeting storm, pushing tweets that fight the mayor's proposal.
Uber has famously won fights in cities across the country whose governing boards are wary of the disruptive technology, but this fight is perhaps the biggest yet. And yesterday, they were declared the winner, if only for now. De Blasio dropped the proposal after several city officials and the state's governor began to side with Uber. Instead of a year-long freeze, Uber will collaborate with the mayor's office to contribute data to the study of traffic patterns and congestion in the city.
Does this move signify a change in the power of politics? It would seem that the crowdsourced lobbying power of the sharing economy proved more powerful than the mayor of one of the most major cities in the world, a paradigm shift that can't be ignored as cities and technology move forward. If privately owned companies can rally the people faster and with more fervor than politicians can, what does this say about the future of public policy and governing?
What do you think: is the sharing economy our most powerful political movement in the last half century?
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