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Uber Shows Its Political Power as NYC's de Blasio Drops Car-Capping Bill

Uber's user base is now a huge, immediate and powerful constituency for political fights.

Flickr / L.A. Foodie

Uber won.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has dropped his proposed bill that would have capped the growth of car service companies like Uber while the city studies their impact on congestion. Uber won’t be forced to limit its New York fleets, at least for now.

It was a mean fight that saw each side pull out all the stops to sway public opinion. Despite Uber placing a “de Blasio” tab in its app, showing users potential wait times for rides if the mayor’s bill passed, de Blasio stood his ground, saying, “No company’s multi-billion-dollar political war chest gives it a blank check to skirt vital protections and oversight for New Yorkers.”

Despite being a regional issue, the fight hit national news as celebrities like Kate Upton and Neil Patrick Harris waded into the mix on Twitter to defend Uber. Uber reportedly organized 17,000 users to send emails to the City Council protesting the cap. As temperatures rose past 90 degrees on subway platforms in the summer heat, New Yorkers groaned about the proposed bill on Facebook. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is in the middle of his own battle with the mayor, came out against it.

One possible lesson that politicians, taxi coalitions and other entities can draw here is to not underestimate the loyalty Uber has inspired. Riders in a way have been in a Faustian bargain with Uber — even if they have issues with the company, that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t back the service, especially among those who live in New York’s outer boroughs, where grabbing a ride is always unpredictable.

As for Uber, it says it is “pleased to have reached an agreement with Mayor de Blasio’s administration and the City Council to collaborate on a joint transportation study and to work together on ways to continue expanding economic opportunity, mobility and transportation access in the city.”

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