Organizations representing the black car industry have filed legislation against a New York City pilot program for e-hailing apps just one day before it was due to begin. The program was approved in December, and will allow for hailing cabs within a 1.5 mile-radius, or a half-mile radius in Manhattan below 59th Street. It was the result of a compromise after sustained lobbying by the black car industry; the TLC had intended to conduct a straight vote on permanent rules.
But the Livery Roundtable, Black Car Assistance Corporation, and others argue that the Taxi & Limousine Commission passed the program without the go-ahead from the City Council, rendering it invalid; the filing says that the TLC "simply does not have the authority" to "fundamentally overhaul the City's long-standing transportation policy." In New York City, black cars can only pick up pre-arranged hails, whereas yellow cabs are limited to hails from the street; e-hailing exists in a gray area between the two, however, which has many in the black car industry worried that smartphone apps may erode demand for their service.
"This suit seeks to keep the taxi industry and New Yorkers in the dark ages."
The TLC told Betabeat that, while it hasn't yet examined the lawsuit, it expects the program to hold up. "This suit seeks to keep the taxi industry and New Yorkers in the dark ages. Next thing, they'll be suing restaurants to go back to wood-burning stoves," added Commissioner David Yassky. "Our rules allow for e-hail now, and the only question is, do we embrace these new services and ensure that consumer protections are in place, or listen to obstructionists and watch e-hail apps proliferate without any regulatory input."
The New York City Law Department has backed this up in a statement sent to Betabeat, saying that city lawyers are "confident the pilot program will withstand court scrutiny. This program was approved in accordance with TLC rules and is completely proper." The program's legal status should be clear by the end of the month, at least; a spokesperson for the BCAC followed up with Betabeat to say that a state Supreme Court hearing has been set for February 28th, and that e-hailing apps won't be ready to launch until March 2nd.