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Need a taxi? Just 'e-hail'

2013-10-30 09:48


GREEN LIGHT FOR TESTING: An appeals court has given the go ahead for an 'e-hailing' app to be tested in New York City 'yellow cabs'. Image: Shutterstock

NEW YORK CITY - New York City's experiment with taxi-hailing smartphone apps got a green light on Tuesday (Oct 29 2013) from an appeals court.

The state Supreme Court's Appellate Division said the city could continue a year-long test of 'e-hail' services,which would allow customers to summon the city's signature yellow taxis with a smartphone instead of a raised arm.

New York City's roughly 13 000 yellow taxis have traditionally been prohibited from taking pre-arranged rides but the taxi commission approved the e-hail experiment in December 2012, saying that the city shouldn't turn its back on new taxi technology.


Car service owners sued, saying the project unfairly blurred a legal line between yellow and livery cabs, the latter barred from picking up passengers on streets and so depending on prearranged rides. The lawsuit also contended that the project was too broad to qualify as a test.

But the court said the test "was properly adopted" and allowable under city laws.

City taxi and limousine commissioner David Yassky said: "New York City has always been a taxi-hailing town,and we're pleased to be able to offer passengers more than one way to accomplish that."

A lawyer for 'e-hail' opponents didn't immediately return a call about the ruling, which upheld a lower court decision.

With the appeals court's approval, a few companies started offering the service while the appeal played out. Using an app, a potential passenger requests a ride, all participating taxis within a certain distance get the inquiry, and the driver who responds first gets the fare.

E-hail systems are already in use in some other cities in the US and other countries, among them London.

Michael Woloz, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, a group representing fleet owners with a total of more than 5200 cabs, said some taxi drivers were finding e-hailing useful to find passengers late at night and outside Manhattan.  Woloz said: "It's something that our drivers are learning how best to use."

During nearly 12 years in office, New York's mayor Michael Bloomberg has driven a number of changes to the city's taxi system. Several have spurred a lawsuit.

In October 2013, a court blocked a plan to transform the fleet with a minivan-style "Taxi of Tomorrow," three weeks before it was to start. The city is appealing against that ruling.
Read more on:    new york  |  taxis

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