Ride-sharing services are notoriously unpopular with local taxi commissions and city governments, as they are increasingly being seen as a threat to local taxi industries. In fact, it has become so bad for companies like SideCar, Uber and Lyft that they have been, in cities all over the country, order to cease operations and fined. One company was even the victim of, what it called, a "sting operation" in Philadelphia in February.
But those companies have now scored a major victory in New York City; one that essentially brings ride-sharing back to the city, it was announced by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Taxi and Limousine Commission Chairman David Yassky and Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo on Thursday.
The Appellate Division’s First Department has ruled that the City’s e-hail pilot program, which will allow users to hail yellow cabs from a smartphone app, can proceed. The ruling put an end to a temporary restraining order that had blocked the program earlier this year.
The pilot program was first approved In December, when the New York Taxi and Limousine Commission voted to allow a year long program that would let people in New York to use their phones to connect with yellow cab drivers. This came about after Uber first attempted to launch a taxi service in New York City in September, but ran into trouble from the New York Taxi and Limousine Commission, causing it to shut down operations in October.
In April, the program was upheld by Manhattan State Court Justice Carol E. Huff, who dismissed a lawsuit brought against it by the black car industry. The petitioners, which consisted of 10 industry groups representing the for-hire vehicle and livery industry, as well as two individuals, appealed that ruling, and were then able to obtain a temporary restraining order from an appellate court judge.
The decision by the Appellate Division now gives startups such as Uber, Lyft, SideCar, Hailo, Relay Rides, and others the ability to, once again, obtain customers through “e-hailing.”
“In New York City in 2013, common sense and the free market say that you should be able to use your smart phone to get a cab, and that’s why we created a pilot program to allow users to do just that,” Mayor Bloomberg said in a statement. “This decision will allow our e-hail program to move forward, and give New Yorkers another way to hail a cab. Some in the industry want to protect their business interests by blocking the use of new technology – but innovation is good for customers, and we will continue to encourage it.”
As you might imagine, ride-sharing services are quite happy with the decision.
"It's pretty rare that the transportation sector sees so much progress and justice on the same day. UberTAXI is fully up and running for yellow cabs and we look forward to helping New Yorkers hail green cabs too," Uber CEO Travis Kalanick told VatorNews.
This was just one of two rulings on taxi services in New York City to be handed down Thursday.
In a separate ruling, the New York State Court of Appeals also upheld a State law that authorized the establishment of street hail livery service in all four bouroughs. In addition, the also will allow the City’s to sell 2,000 additional medallions (or licenses) for wheelchair-accessible yellow taxicabs. The latter move expected to generate roughly $1 billion in revenue for the City over the next few years.
Vator has reached out to other ride-sharing services, including Lyft, SideCar and Hailo, for their perspectives on the ruling on the e-hail pilot program, and we will update if we hear more from them.
(Image source: http://techsportation.com)