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Just what Manhattan needs: more gridlock. According to the Mayor’s office, Uber will be the death of the flow of traffic in the city. According to Uber, yellow cabs are still the culprit.

The conflict between the Mayor and Uber is on temporary hiatus as a fight over numbers that are either inflated, underreported, contradictory or misleading, depending on which side you ask, are studied further. The city will continue to look at figures on how Uber use has affected everything from air and noise pollution to public health (not to mention traffic), while Uber has agreed to release statistics to help the city with its research.

The Mayor’s office says that one problem with congestion caused by Uber is that the cars stay in the traffic zone longer than most vehicles as they wait for potential passengers to contact them to make their pickups. But the author of one study said that Uber drivers are less likely to "cruise" for passengers than taxis do. Another expert believes that Uber passengers are taking trips that would likely be taken in other vehicles in the same area anyway, so there is no evidence that Uber increases traffic.

Other arguments abound on both sides. Uber claims that putting a cap on the number of vehicles it can use at any time, as the Mayor’s office has proposed, would destroy 10,000 job opportunities. A proposal by MoveNY suggests that using tolls would help reduce traffic.

But Uber may have even bigger problems in New York. Earlier this year, an Uber driver struck a couple on an Upper East Side street, killing a 27-year-old man and seriously injuring his girlfriend. The woman filed suit against Uber, claiming that the app used by its drivers for electronic hails violates the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission rules against using an electronic device while driving.

Any new technology is subject to scrutiny as bugs are detected and resolved. But most of those don’t involve increased traffic congestion and safety concerns about distracted driving. As the city, Uber and other parties resolve concerns and issues about the service, drivers and pedestrians may benefit from its convenience, but should also be aware of any dangers and pitfalls that could result and may need the advice of an attorney for any traffic violations or even injuries that may result from the presence of the vehicles.

Source: FiveThirtyEight.com, “The Debate on Uber’s Impact in New York City Is Far From Over,” Carl Bialik, July 23, 2015

Secondary Source: Streetsblog New York City, “Crash Victim lawsuit: App Use by Uber Drivers Is Negligent and Illegal,” Brad Aaron, Mar. 20, 2015

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