NEW YORK (AP) – The city can experiment with letting taxi seekers hail rides electronically, a judge said Tuesday in a ruling that could clear the way for riders to summon the city’s signature yellow taxis with smartphone apps instead of raised arms.
While the cabs have been prohibited in the past from taking pre-arranged rides, testing an “e-hail” system is OK to see whether it leads to a dearth of cabs or other problems, Manhattan state Supreme Court Justice Carol Huff wrote in dismissing a lawsuit filed mainly by livery cab owners.
The judge also lifted an order that had temporarily blocked the program, but it wasn’t immediately clear how soon virtual hailing might begin.
Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky saluted the decision as a victory that expands riders’ choices.
“The market will ultimately decide which apps rise or fall, and we have an obligation to give the riding public that choice,” he said in a statement.
A lawyer for the livery cab owners, Randy Mastro, said they were considering an appeal.
This decision is so fundamentally wrong in so many respects,” Mastro said by phone, declining to elaborate.
The Taxi and Limousine Commission agreed in December to test the idea for a year, saying the city couldn’t ignore evolving taxi technology. E-hail systems are in use in some other cities, and at least a dozen companies said they were ready to provide the service in New York.
One of them, Uber, applauded the court decision as a win for a city seeking to cultivate a technology-friendly reputation.
“You can’t stop progress when the people want it enough,” CEO Travis Kalanick said in a statement.