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NYC Uber fight isn't about traffic congestion

The Uber Technologies Inc. car service application is

The Uber Technologies Inc. car service application is demonstrated on an Apple Inc. iPhone. Credit: Getty Images / David Ramos

Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York City Council leaders want to halt the expansion of e-hail apps like Uber and Lyft.

But they should be opening the roads to all.

The council may vote on two bills as early as Thursday. One would encourage a study on traffic and pollution. By itself, that's innocuous.

But it's being paired with another measure that would severely limit new taxi licenses, so Uber could add no more than 201 cars in NYC in the next year. Company executives said they hoped to add up to 10,000 by the end of this year.

De Blasio and council leaders have cited the potential environmental impact of adding that many vehicles to the city's already congested roads. But de Blasio's fight with Uber isn't all about traffic. The medallion cab companies were huge contributors to his mayoral campaign.

Officials across Long Island are trying to determine how to handle Uber, too. East Hampton Town chose criminal prosecution, charging 23 Uber drivers with failing to comply with its codes. The move forced Uber to shut operations there. Nassau County has a quieter approach. A new board will write rules to govern for-hire vehicles.

Ultimately, Uber has improved how New Yorkers get from place to place. Innovative companies that fill a need should be applauded -- not capped. New York State has to create oversight to ensure passenger safety, accessibility, competition and insurance standards. But stopping market forces and limiting new services are not the answers.

Uber and others like it provide a service that everyone should have access to -- and that governments across the region, including New York City, shouldn't roadblock.