Burgos introduces bill to prevent surge pricing during emergencies following Sunset Park subway shooting

picture with zoom effect of traffic in Manhattan, NYC
While Uber and Lyft can raise prices when there is higher demand, a Bronx state lawmaker wants to prohibit them from doing so during emergencies like the April 19 subway attack in Brooklyn.
Photo courtesy Getty

A Bronx lawmaker is proposing a bill in response to the recent subway attack in Brooklyn that would prevent rideshare companies from charging higher prices during emergencies.

On Monday, state Assemblymember Kenny Burgos introduced a bill that would prohibit transportation companies from charging surge prices during federal, state and locally declared emergencies.

The proposal comes after Frank James allegedly opened a smoke canister and shot at passengers inside a subway car and on the Sunset Park subway platform in Brooklyn on April 19. James allegedly shot 10 people and injured more than 20 and is facing federal terrorism charges.

However, the city did not declare a state of emergency the day of the shooting.

The Bronx Times has reached out to Mayor Eric Adams’ office for comment and is awaiting a response.

Companies like Uber and Lyft raise prices when demand is high, which happened last Tuesday. But Uber and Lyft both ultimately suspended surge pricing after the attack on Tuesday and issued refunds for riders who already paid the higher prices, the companies told the Bronx Times.

The bill, called the Stop Unreasonable Rideshare Gouging during Emergencies (SURGE) Act, would take effect 30 days after being signed into law. If companies violate the rule, they would be fined $250 for each incident.

“After the subway shooting in Sunset Park, many terrified commuters saw a major price increase for their Uber and Lyft ride,” Burgos, a Soundview Progressive, said in a statement. “This is putting profit over people, plain and simple. Faced with a crisis, commuters were put in an impossible position by these ridesharing apps. New Yorkers should not be subject to price gouging and certainly not during an emergency. These fearful commuters should have been able to safely leave the scene of the attack without worrying about exorbitant costs. My bill would end unfair surge pricing and hold these companies accountable who do not comply.”

In a comment to the Bronx Times, Lyft said the company will continue “engaging with all stakeholders to strengthen our role in emergency situations.”

“We also worked to quickly provide assistance to thousands of riders after these tragic events,” the company added.

Uber spokesperson Freddi Goldstein said on Tuesday the company cannot comment on a bill that hasn’t been made available for public review.

In 2014, then Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Uber made a three-year agreement to limit prices during declared emergencies. Goldstein declined to comment on the agreement.

This article was updated at 11:55 p.m. on April 20.

Reach Aliya Schneider at [email protected] or (718) 260-4597. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes.