De Blasio Camp Embraces Uber App–Even as Candidate Voices Concerns

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 01: A gas-electric hybrid taxi cab drives on a street March 1, 2011 in New York City. The U.S. Supreme Court has decided not to hear an appeal in a case that ends New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg's four-year fight to force the yellow-taxi industry in New York to fully replace its 13,000 vehicles with gas-electric hybrids. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

A city cab. (Photo: Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

Bill de Blasio isn’t sold on the benefits of hailing cabs via e-hail phone apps like Uber–but that hasn’t stopped his campaign from spending more than $1,000 dollars ferrying staffers using the service.

According to city campaign finance records, the Democratic mayoral front-runner and his Republican rival, Joe Lhota, have embraced the new technology, using it frequently for transportation on the campaign trail.

Mr. de Blasio’s campaign spent $1,524 on 47 trips with Uber from May through October, while Mr. Lhota’s campaign spent $1,096 on 14 trips, the records show. Combined, the two campaigns spent more than $2,600 on trips ranging from $10 to $147–something Mr. Lhota embraced.

“He’s not only a supporter, but he’s a frequent user of Uber,” Mr. Lhota’s campaign spokeswoman said via email.

Mr. de Blasio’s stance is far less clear. Asked at a recent campaign stop to clarify his stance on the apps, Mr. de Blasio told Politcker he saw both benefits and challenges.

“I think a variety of things. I think that kind of technology, if done properly, could be very helpful. I also think, as I’ve said about everything with our transportation industry, there are real delicate balances that have to be struck,” he said outside a Harlem church.

“The bottom line is we have a very elaborate transportation system in this town including yellow cabs, including car services that in many ways works. And if we’re gonna make any changes to it, we better damn well make sure we don’t disrupt that which works now. So to me, to evaluate what that kind of technology would mean would require bringing all the stakeholders together to seriously discuss the ramifications and determine what’s best for the city,” he added.

Mr. de Blasio’s spokesman explained that the campaign has been using Uber to hail black livery cabs, not the more controversial issue involving yellow cabs–but declined to clarify Mr. de Blasio’s thoughts on either black or yellow e-hails.

The city is currently in the midst of a year-long pilot program that allows customers to hail yellow cabs using smartphones, but has faced staunch opposition from livery owners, who unsuccessfully sued to the city, arguing the programs unfairly cut into their business.

Mr. de Blasio, who has received several hundred thousand dollars in contributions from the yellow taxi industry, has tended to side with medallion owners and expressed repeated concerns about the city’s new green apple outer-borough taxi program, which allows some livery cars to accept street hails outside of central Manhattan.