Judge OKs NYC Plan for E-Hailing Yellow Cabs

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Using an app, a potential passenger requests a ride, all participating cabbies within a certain distance get the inquiry and the driver who responds first gets the fare.

Car service owners said it unfairly blurred a legal line between yellow and livery cabs, which are barred from picking up passengers on streets and so depend on prearranged rides.

The livery cab owners – and a senior citizen who doesn’t own a smartphone – also envision in the suit that e-hailing will leave people standing on street corners while cabbies zip by to pick up app-arranged fares, potentially reviving concerns about discrimination against passengers based on their race, whereabouts or destination. Those concerns led years ago to measures that barred drivers from taking fares via radio dispatch and from refusing any passenger without “justifiable grounds.”

The judge, however, said the e-hail plan might actually combat any discrimination, since drivers wouldn’t be able to see their fares when accepting them. She didn’t address whether cabbies might shun some neighborhoods to take e-hail requests elsewhere but noted the test program could examine discrimination.

She suggested the electronic system could help, rather than harm, older people by “reducing time spent standing or walking” to find a cab. She also rejected other claims, including an argument that the program was too broad to qualify as a test.

The city’s chief lawyer, Michael Cardozo, said the ruling confirms the city’s position that the program is entirely proper.

Meanwhile, the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, was poised to hear arguments Wednesday over a nearly opposite initiative: a plan to let livery cabs pick up passengers on streets in upper Manhattan and the city’s four other boroughs.

In that case, yellow cab owners sued. They said the plan would hurt their business. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has countered that it would make travel safer, easier and cheaper for millions of people.

The outcome could have a major impact on the city’s budget, as the disputed measure is coupled with a proposal to sell 2,000 new yellow-cab permits, or medallions. Officials have estimated that could make the city more than $1.4 billion over several years.

(Photo: AP)

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