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Legal Challenge for Taxi Hail Apps with NYC Yellow Cabs

Friday, February 15, 2013

Listen to a conversation about why NYC Taxi innovations so often result in litigation.

The latest effort to reform and remake New York City's taxi industry has met a similar roadblock as previous efforts: a lawsuit.  Livery cab drivers have filed suit to block a rule change that was set to go into effect Friday permitting yellow cabs to accept passengers through smartphone apps.

But city officials say they're reviewing apps as planned and hope to have the system up and running soon.

In New York, yellow cabs have the right to pick up passengers who hail them on the street, but can't be dispatched by phone. Livery cabs are a different category of taxi that can only pick up passengers who call ahead to pre-arrange a pick up.

Taxi apps like Uber, HailO, FlyWheel and ZabKab allow passengers to see where they are on a map and where nearby cabs are, then with a few taps on a touchscreen, hail a cab to come pick them up. 

If the city's 13,237 yellow cabs are allowed to pre-arrange pickups through apps like that, it amounts to a violation of Taxi and Limousine Commission regulations that distinguish yellow medallion cabs from livery cabs, the lawsuit filed Thursday alleges. (Lawsuit is here)

The spokesperson said the apps could go live after March 1 when a contract expires with the companies that provide the in-cab credit card processing and other technology--a suite of services known in the taxi industry as TPEP for Taxicab Passenger Enhancements Project. The TPEP contract would prohibit payment through a third parties, like the smartphone apps. That contract was set to expire today, but has been extended to March 1.

The TLC says four smartphone app companies have already submitted apps for approval and are being reviewed for features like integration with the meter and usability by drivers so they aren't dangerously distracted by their phones while on the road.

So called e-hail apps can make finding a cab easier and driving one more profitable, according to Anil Yazici, a Research Associate at the University Transportation Research Center. "This will bring some efficiency to the search process," he says. 

Yellow cabs in New York spend 40 percent of their time empty looking for fares, especially during off-hours and outside the city center. Yazici says apps "won't eliminate empty trips, that's for sure. But surely it will reduce the empty percentages."

It could also reduce business to livery cabs. In the past just about every change in taxi rules that could cut into the business of one category of cab has resulted in court battles. Earlier this year, Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan was blocked to add a new category of outer borough "green" cabs that would have a meter and be allowed to pick up street hails outside Manhattan's central business district. (Ruling) Another plan to convert all yellow cabs to a single new car model known as the Taxi of Tomorrow is also facing a court challenge.

The latest legal challenge against yellow cab e-hail apps goes to court on February 28th.

NYC yellow cabs are a $2.5 billion industry and carry over 500,000 passengers a day. 

 

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Transportation Nation

NYC's Disabled Can Now Call A Cab Without Wave Or Whistle

Friday, September 14, 2012

There are only 233 taxis with ramps in NYC. (photo by Jim O'Grady)

(New York, NY - WNYC) Handicapped New Yorkers now have several ways to hail a wheelchair-accessible cab--no whistle or wave necessary—as long as they're in Manhattan.

The city has launched a dispatch system that lets disabled riders summon one of New York's 233 wheelchair-friendly cabs by telephone, text, the internet, or a free smartphone app called “Wheels on Wheels.” Until now, the only way to catch a cab with space for a wheelchair was by calling New York's helpline, 311.

The "Accessible Dispatch" app allows a disabled rider to request a taxi from a dispatcher in Connecticut. The dispatcher uses a GPS system to locate the nearest cab-with-ramp (see photos) and sends it to the rider, who can chart the cab's approach by phone.

When offered a trip, the cabbie must accept it within two minutes and proceed directly to the rider. The dispatch service pays drivers for that travel time. Yellow cab medallion owners pay $98 a year to fund the program; no tax dollars are used.

An alternate design for wheelchair-accessible NYC taxi. (Photo by Alex Goldmark)

The fare is the same as for any cab ride. Drivers must take a disabled rider anywhere in the five boroughs, Westchester and Nassau Counties, and the three major area airports. Riders must be in Manhattan if they want to use technological means to hail a wheelchair-accessible cab.

By city rule, regular yellow cabs can pick up street hails but aren't allowed to be dispatched. The New York Taxi and Limousine Commission is making an exception for disabled riders--and the Wheels on Wheels app.

But with so few cabs designed for handicapped riders, even a swift hail by app can result in a wait of up to 30 minutes when cabs are occupied or many blocks away. NY Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky conceded it was a problem at a Friday press conference in Manhattan. “Two-hundred and thirty taxis is too few,” he said of the wheelchair-accessible cabs. “We’re going to have to put new cabs on the street.”

Early this year, the New York State legislature authorized the sale of 2,000 new wheelchair accessible cab medallions as part of a bill that would allow non-yellow cabs to take outer-borough street hails. That law is now tied up in the courts. Until the matter is resolved, the new medallions sit in limbo.

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Transportation Nation

Here's the New NYC Taxi Logo

Thursday, August 23, 2012

T is for (new) Taxis in New York City. (Photo by Caitlyn Kim)

New York city is giving taxis a new look. There's the taxi of tomorrow set to roll out next year, but even the motley mix of sedans and SUVs out there now are getting a new paint job. And when they do, the city's yellow cabs come back more yellow  and as this picture captures, with a new logo, fewer words, and more to the point. JFK airport gets a mention right on the door.

Here's a side-by-side comparison. (Or, top-by-bottom comparison?)

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Transportation Nation

BREAKING: NYC Taxi Commission Approves Plan for Outer Borough Street Hails

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The New York Taxi and Limousine Commission voted 7-2 to approve a new plan for outer-borough livery drivers — the last major hurdle before the city can start issuing new licenses so livery drivers can pick up street hails outside of Manhattan.

It was a raucous public hearing ahead of the TLC's vote.   Two yellow cab drivers were ejected for shouting.  One owner called it "the biggest taking of property ever by New York City."

The topic of street hails is a hot-button issue for some in the yellow cab industry, which  filed a suit to block the proposed plan on Wednesday.

The plan would allow 18,000 livery drivers who purchase the new street hail permits to pick up street hails in the outer boroughs and parts of upper Manhattan.

The first 6,000 street hail licenses are scheduled to be sold in June.

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Transportation Nation

NYC To Get Rid of Some Taxi TV's

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Taxi TV (photo by Kathleen Horan/WNYC)

(New York, NY -- Kathleen Horan, WNYC) New York City is planning to offer passengers a quieter ride by taking the TVs out of the backs of some yellow taxis.

"What we're trying here is a credit card screen that won't have advertising or entertainment content on that”, said Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky at a meeting of the Taxi and Limousine Commission.

New Yorkers reaction has been mixed to the TV’s that can blare in the backseats but Yassky defends the current system—adding that some passengers do enjoy the entertainment content.

The TLC approved a pilot program on Thursday to remove the TV screens from the back of 30 cabs and replace them with iPads or other tablets.

The mobile payment company called SQUARE will equip these cabs with interactive touch screens. On them, passengers can to pay for their ride and opt to have a receipt emailed or texted to them. If the pilot program is approved, the new screens could appear in many more cabs by early next year. The internet and other functions wouldn’t be available right away.

Customers pay with nearly half of their trips by credit card, according to the TLC and up until now (since 2008) only 2 companies, Creative Mobile Technology or CMT and VeriFone have been authorized to provide credit card readers and GPS systems as well as the TV’s in cabs.

One of the current providers, Jesse Davis, President of CMT, was not pleased after the Commission voted to approve the pilot. He said the new gizmos are not safe. “No one in the industry has figured out how to lock it down. Someone can put a rogue application on the device and capture the credit card information…when you install it in a taxi you put in a device that’s literally available to 100’s of people: passengers, mechanics, operators, and drivers. One bad transaction ruins the whole program.”

The TLC said SQUARE’s system is up to industry standards but the Payment Card Industry or PCI has yet to write standards specifically for the I-Pad. The company, started by Jack Dorsey of Twitter, has been processing transactions for cab drivers in other cities like San Francisco and Orlando.

Taxi drivers supported the move toward more competition at the Commission meeting.  They welcomed the news that they’d receive quicker payment for credit card transactions—1 business day vs. a few-  and they’ll be charged less in credit card fees.

“We support breaking this exclusive monopoly these 2 companies have been enjoying”, said Bhairavi Desai, head of the Taxi Workers Alliance. “Neither have been invested in lowering the processing amount”, she added

Currently the amount the TLC allows drivers to be is charged 3.5% by the banks or processor. SQUARE is offering to drop that to 2.75%.

Drivers who lease their taxi can pay another 1.5% in fees to a fleet garage.

“We see the pilot program as a real step forward; it will give us a chance of breaking the 5%”, said Desai

The TLC is considering opening up the playing field before the current technology contracts expire next February. Officials say they’re planning to recommend that the new borough taxis in the upcoming street hail livery program be equipped with credit card readers and GPS data collection but TV’s would be optional. They said they’re seeking multiple affordable options for taxi operators to choose from.

The TLC is publishing the draft rules for selling street hail livery permits next week. A public hearing where the public can weigh in on the proposed rules is scheduled for March 22nd. The sale of the permits will begin in June, followed by the auction of 200 yellow medallions in July.

Taxi TV (photo by Kathleen Horan/WNYC)
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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: The Political Implications of Volatile Gas Prices, The New Suburban Growth, and Why Cabbies Don't Want to Leave Manhattan

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

More on the political implications of volatile gas prices--as well as oil company subsidies--from the Wall Street JournalThe Takeaway talks about what -- if anything -- Congress can do to lower them.

Cabbies say the reason they often refuse to take passengers to New York's outer boroughs is because of their bottom line. (WNYC)

USA Today looks at suburbanization, and says most of the growth is happening on opposite ends of the suburban expanse: in older communities closest to the city and in the newer ones that are the farthest out.

The first crash test evaluations of the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf earned the cars high safety ratings from the IIHS; AP video below.

Speaking of EVs: an unmodified Nissan Leaf is entering a steep hill climb race. (Inhabitat)

An audit found that Los Angeles is losing up to $15 million in revenue because the city barely captures half of the parking fines owed to it. (Los Angeles Times)

North Dakota became the 31st state to ban texting while driving. (Grand Forks Herald)

Utah lawmakers have scheduled a vote on whether to overturn the governor's veto of a bill that dedicates a portion of the state sales tax to transportation. (Daily Herald)

NYC DOT puts a digital speed detector at an intersection in Staten Island because "two out of every three cars were exceeding the speed limit," according to commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. (Staten Island Advance)

Transparency watch: NY's MTA has a board meeting this morning at 9:30am; you can watch it here.

Despite moving forward on creating their own electric vehicles, the head of BMW says he doesn't think EVs are right for more than 10% of the population. (Fast Company)

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In case you missed it on Transportation Nation:

--The NYPD ticketed cyclists for not riding in a bike lane (link)

--BART wants rider input on new seat design (link)

--TN's Andrea Bernstein will be at the NYC Transit Museum tonight to talk about the past -- and future -- of Penn Station (link)

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Gas Prices Spur Increase In Driving on Empty, China's HSR System Under Scrutiny, And Will NYkers Hail a Yellow Mercedes?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ford had its most profitable quarter in 13 years. (Detroit Free Press)

AAA says the rise in gas prices has led to a rise in people running out of fuel on the roads. (KHOU)

The Crow Reservation in Montana has launched a transit program. (Billings Gazette)

George Michael song or vehicle name? Sweden is testing the "Arctic Whisper," which is "the world’s first fast-charging serial hybrid bus." (Autopia)

China's high-speed rail system is under scrutiny amid concerns that builders ignored safety in order to build ever-faster trains. (Washington Post)

Marketplace launched an "Oil Through the Ages" map.

NYC's Taxi and Limousine commission has approved a Mercedes for use as a yellow cab. (NY Daily News)

If you see a scary video, share a scary video: NY's MTA launched a Department of Homeland Security-funded ad campaign (video below).

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

In case you missed it on Transportation Nation:

-- Illinois will now track "dooring" collisions. (Link)

-- Will transportation apps revolutionize transit? (Link)

-- The Taxi of Tomorrow might be built in Brooklyn. (Link)

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Transportation Nation

A Look at a Contender For NYC's Taxi of Tomorrow

Thursday, February 03, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Karsan unveiled its prototype for New York's Taxi of Tomorrow. Built-in wheelchair ramp, doors that open to 90 degrees, 40 inches of legroom...plus a glass roof. What do you think, readers? Is Karsan taking an early lead?

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Christie Considers $128 Million Offer, Vote on Taxi Driver Dress Code Postponed, and BART Eyes Late Nights

Friday, December 17, 2010

Governor Christie will consider the FTA's offer to credit New Jersey with $128 million towards the $271 million the feds say the state owes.  "I would say that offer was a nice start, and we’ll continue to talk," Christie said at a press conference Thursday. (Star-Ledger)

A vote on a taxi driver dress code is postponed until next month. (WNYC)

Police will begin conducting random bag searches on (DC) Metro trains and buses. (Washington Post, WAMU)

BART may try operating trains later than 12:15am on Saturday nights. Par-tay! (San Francisco Examiner)

NYC's MTA "stealthily" renames a transit stop, so "Broadway-Nassau" is now just "Fulton Street." (AM New York)

Religious ads have been banned on Fort Worth buses, because of a furor sparked by an ad for atheism. (Houston Chronicle)

Broward County, Florida, will begin a bike share program this spring. (Sun Sentinel)

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Transportation Nation

The Taxi of Tomorrow

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

NYC Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky was on the Brian Lehrer Show this morning to talk about the Taxi of Tomorrow.  Listen below--and visit the segment's comments page to weigh in with a few suggestions of your own.

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Transportation Nation

NYC Taxis, Ready for A Makeover

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

(Felix Morgner, Flickr)

An iconic symbol is facing a makeover: NYC is holding an international design competition to redesign the yellow cab. The winner will have the exclusive right to make taxis for the next decade.

Currently 16 different vehicles are approved for use as taxis. But the city is looking for a single model that will be used by all: one that is safe, comfortable, fuel efficient, affordable and accessible.  One taxi to rule them all!

Read the story at WNYC.

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