New York livery car groups won a bid to block a pilot program that would enable people to hail and pay for rides in one of the city’s 13,000 yellow taxis using location-based smartphone applications.
The measure adopted by the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission in December would run for 12 months and exempt areas such as airports that have provisions for taxi lines. While all licensed city cab drivers would be eligible, participation would be optional.
The Livery Roundtable, Black Car Assistance Corp. and several car-service firms sued the TLC in February, claiming the program violates city codes and may let drivers discriminate against racial minorities based on their names or locations, as well as the elderly, who are less likely to own smartphones.
New York State Supreme Court Justice Carole Huff in Manhattan dismissed the lawsuit on April 23 and lifted her March 7 order blocking the program. Then on May 1, Associate Justice Helen E. Freedman of the Appellate Division, First Department, issued an emergency injunction blocking the program from going forward and ordered expedited review by a full panel of appeals court judges, Randy Mastro, an attorney for the livery cab companies with Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP, said in an e-mail.
The ruling came a day after Uber Technologies Inc., the first company approved for the program, said its service was available in the city.
Mastro, who was deputy mayor under Rudolph Giuliani, said he expects the appeals court to hear arguments on the case this month.
“This faux ‘pilot program’ is so fundamentally flawed and illegal in so many respects that it had to be stopped,” Mastro said in an e-mail. “And now it once again has been.”
Freedman issued a temporary restraining order that’s in effect until a full panel of appeals court judges decides the livery car groups’ motion for an injunction during the pendency of their appeal, the city’s Law Department said. That motion is scheduled to be submitted to the appellate panel on May 13, with a decision to be issued on May 20.
“We’re disappointed that there is a further delay in implementing the e-hail pilot program,” Michelle Goldberg-Cahn, senior counsel in the administrative law division of the Law Department, said in a statement. “It’s unfortunate that taxi riders will not be able to continue to test this innovative tool for hailing taxis.”
South of Manhattan’s 59th Street, the smartphone program would be restricted to pickups within a half-mile range, according to Huff’s decision. Elsewhere in the city, the range would extend to 1.5 miles. Smartphone application providers would be subject to Taxi & Limousine Commission approval.
The commission said last week it approved Hailo Network USA Inc. as the second participant in the program, joining San Francisco-based Uber Technologies.
“The Supreme Court was absolutely right that taxi-hailing apps are not only good for the riding public, but perfectly legal as well,” David Yassky, who heads the commission, said in a statement. “It is appalling that narrow commercial interests continue to try to block passengers from using the latest technology.”
The injunction is the just the latest in a series of setbacks that have plagued faster adoption of mobile payments technology in New York’s cabs. A pilot program conducted by Square Inc. was cut short in October, prompting confusion over the effort to use iPads for in-cab payments. Meanwhile, the two payments companies that currently provide in-cab processing services for taxis are involved in litigation over taxi advertising contracts.