Uber is shutting down operations in the town of East Hampton after it could not reach an agreement with city officials. According to an email from Uber, the main sticking point is a requirement that every Uber driver operating in town maintain an office there, a requirement that, as Uber correctly points out, would be impossible for most Uber drivers to comply with.
"We applaud Uber for taking the responsible step of suspending their operations until such time that they comply with the Town’s licensing requirements," said town supervisor Larry Cantwell. "The Town will not tolerate any vehicles not complying with our regulations, nor will we allow drivers to be sleeping in vehicles for hire, obstructing traffic and taking up limited parking spaces in hamlet centers that should be available for residents and visitors."
Cantwell insists that the town's 220 licensed taxis will be sufficient to meet demand. But critics say he's wrong, and that the city was notoriously short on taxis until Uber came along.
Banning Uber could be particularly deadly on summer weekends, when people flock to the area from New York City and many go out partying. A shortage of taxis could lead more drunk people to get behind the wheel.
Cantwell says the industry needs to be strictly licensed to "protect the health, safety, and welfare" of passengers and the public. But an increase in drunk driving seems like a bigger danger to public safety than whatever rules East Hampton is enforcing here.