Both the wage system and the cap will push Uber and its ilk to improve what are called “utilization rates,” or the percentage of miles during which the driver has a passenger. In 2017, that rate stood at just 58 percent, according to the TLC, meaning that TNC vehicles were driving empty more than 40 percent of the time. Despite the backing of an algorithm providing an endless stream of pick-ups, that’s scarcely an improvement over street-hail taxis, who (in 2014) had the meter running about 54 percent of the time.
As demand continues to increase (and it will, with a major subway line shutting down in less than a year’s time), the path forward looks like drivers clocking fewer, busier hours. That’s good news for existing drivers, good news for the environment, and good news for traffic congestion.