Uber Progresses in New York and Sarasota, Florida

Taxi medallion holders can't force city to crush Uber in New York, and Sarasota abandons existing taxi regs rather than hobble e-hailers.


Good news in Uber's constant legal fights against regulators and existing transportation cartels in the past week, first out of New York as reported in Crain's New York Business:

In a decision unveiled Wednesday, Queens Supreme Court Justice Allan Weiss ruled that for-hire vehicles could use electronic hails to compete with yellow cabs…

If that means yellow-cab medallions worth a collective $10 billion or so just two years ago become worthless, the judge suggested, so be it.

"Any expectation that the medallion would function as a shield against the rapid technological advances of the modern world would not have been reasonable," he wrote. "In this day and age, even with public utilities, investors must always be wary of new forms of competition arising from technological developments."

The plaintiffs, led by four Queens credit unions who lent heavily to medallion buyers, plan to appeal….

Uber was not itself a defendant in the suit, which instead pitted taxi interests against regulators, who were the unlikely consumer heroes in this particular case:

sought to compel the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission and the attorney general to stop livery cars from scooping up passengers who hail them from the street using smartphones. But the de Blasio administration defended Uber's interests by arguing that e-hails are pre-arranged travel, which does not require a taxi medallion. The judge said it was regulators' right to make that determination, and that e-hails are not the same as street hails made by lifting one's arm or whistling.

Taxi and Limousine Commission Chairwoman Meera Joshi said, "This decision is a victory for the riding public, and leaves no question as to the appropriateness of our regulatory approach to app-dispatched services. Passengers will remain free to continue to enjoy the many transportation options available to them."

The plaintiffs basically argued that the city's failure to crush Uber was harming them:

Melrose Credit Union, which has 78% of its loan portfolio tied to medallions, and three other lenders filed their suit in May and sought an injunction to stop Uber, arguing that they would suffer irreparable harm if nothing was done while the case proceeded. The case was combined with twoother lawsuits from medallion owners, taxi drivers, leasing agents and other yellow-cab interests. The ruling was far worse than they expected: not only no injunction, but outright dismissal of the case.

"We are pleased that the court found that the city has acted appropriately in its regulatory approach to this technological innovation—electronic apps for dispatch in the for hire vehicles—which are separate and distinct from traditional street hails," said Michelle Goldberg-Cahn, the city lawyer who handled the case, in a statement.

The full decision is embedded at the Crain's link.

From Sarasota, Florida, real good news of regulatory sense from the Herald Tribune, where Sarasota's City Commission decided that Uber and its competitors' existence shows that, rather than trying to freshly regulate companies like Uber, they can even the playing field and do better for consumers by deciding existing taxi regs can be abandoned as well. More details from TV station 8 on Your Side.

Reason TV from last month on Uber and the great taxi collapse: