Bloomberg administration promises to come to terms with taxi apps

A taxi in Sunnyside. (chrisgoldny via flickr)
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This afternoon, the Bloomberg administration announced it would begin addressing an issue that has bedeviled members of the taxi and livery industry: what to do about taxi apps?

The makers of taxi apps allowing passengers to hail vehicles by smartphone are poised to flood the system. But it's not at all clear that such apps are legal under the current regulations. That's because only yellow cabs are allowed to accept street hails, and only livery cars are allowed to provide pre-arranged service.

The question that has remained unanswered is: When a would-be passenger hails a cab via smartphone, and in the case of some apps, the driver confirms he's received it and promises to pick her up, is it a digital street hail or pre-arrangement?

In a just-released statement, Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky promised to sort it all out:

“The TLC is eager to pave the way for taxi riders to take advantage of the most up-to-date technology, including smartphone apps that may help passengers locate available taxicabs more quickly. However, current contractual agreements between the TLC and payment processors restrict the use of apps. We intend to quickly begin a rulemaking process that will permit broader use of apps when these contracts expire in February. As part of that process, we will work collaboratively with the livery, black car and taxi industries to address their concerns about the impact of apps on existing business models and to ensure that our rules provide full protection to passengers. In addition, we are currently requesting proposals for a smartphone payment system that will integrate with our existing technology. Time and again, New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission has led the country in terms of putting new technology to work for riders and we are eager to see products that allow taxi passengers to take advantage of the latest innovations.”

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