Cab App Wars

Taxi protectionism


Want to hail a New York cab on your phone? You'll have to wait for permission from a court first. Uber, which for several years has offered a smart phone app allowing users to call and pay for private car services, recently implemented a feature allowing users to hail traditional taxis.

After a multi-month consideration period, the New York City's Taxi & Limousine Commission supported the innovation, giving the company, along with competitor Hailo, clearance in December for a one-year "e-hail" pilot program.

Livery companies, who are forbidden from directly competing with taxis for unscheduled pickups, objected to the encroachment of their services by filing a lawsuit. State Supreme Court Justice Carol Huff rejected the suit in April, allowing the city to move forward to accept bids to provide the e-hailing services. Just days later, however, an appellate judge issued an emergency restraining order blocking e-hailing until a panel could hear the case in May.

The attorney for the livery companies argued his clients would "suffer irreparable injury to their livelihoods, businesses and industry" should customers be allowed to use the apps. The city's taxi regulators say they will continue to support the program. "Taxi-hailing apps are not only good for the riding public, but perfectly legal as well," city taxi commissioner David Yassky said in a statement. "It is appalling that narrow commercial interests continue to try to block passengers from using the latest technology."