By on September 10, 2012

What’s so unreasonable about using smartphones to arrange a taxi ride? Uber, an application which allows prospective riders to arrange rides with “black car” sedans or conventional taxis using their iPhones, arrived in New York this week — but the city bureaucrats have already fired a warning shot across Uber’s bow.

The New York Times stated this week that Uber’s application might break up to eleven different rules of the city’s taxi code. Now, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission has formally warned taxi drivers not to use the Uber app.

Is this yet another head of the distracted-driving-fad Hydra? Not at all. This time, it’s money, not safety, at risk:

Existing contracts the TLC has with fare payment processors prohibits the use of apps to pay taxi and livery fares. The contract is set to expire in February. The TLC is, however, looking at ways to improve hailing and paying for taxis.

The TLC submitted a request for proposal in March of this year. According to the RFP, the TLC wants “a software developer that will create a smartphone application for use in for-hire vehicles. In the past, developers have created stand-alone apps without coordination with service providers or regulators. The TLC aims to take a new approach by contracting with a developer to create an app with one or more functions that would enhance the city’s for-hire vehicle services and improve both customer and driver experiences.”

Why go through the trouble of paying to have a taxi-hailing application developed when there are already companies begging to provide the service? Well, in New York, anything is possible when profit is at stake. Remember, this is the city that decided to make a vaporware Nissan the Taxi Of Tomorrow. Just don’t try to use the iPhone of today to hail it.

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27 Comments on “New York Warns Taxi Drivers Not To Use Their Phones To Find Fares — Even When They’re Stopped...”

  • avatar

    Who says NYC will be paying for the app? Most likely it’s the other way around – NYC wants fees as part of the app scheme, there already is a yellow cab app where the cabbies pay for leads to fares. That’s why.

  • avatar

    holy cow the building in the back is my school. That’s 5th Ave just south of 34th, exactly across Empire State.

  • avatar

    I have never been to NY and have no knowledge of the transportation system or taxi industry in this city. However has anyone ever thought to simply do away with the “New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission” this sounds like another Roosevelt era bureaucracy where connected and privileged public servants are paid ten times there worth to be paper pushers and/or thugs beating down the ‘working man’.

    • 0 avatar

      I bet those GOP talking points make you real popular at parties.

    • 0 avatar
      Chicago Dude

      Well, pedestrians were getting run down as the ‘working men’ were competing to be the first vehicle to arrive at that ‘source of revenue’ that is holding up his hand on the sidewalk. Passengers in taxi cabs were getting maimed or worse as the ‘working men’ drove like lunatics and crashed into things. Entire neighborhoods would get no service at all because the ‘working men’ didn’t like the dominant skin color of the people that lived in those neighborhood.

      But yes, why not leave it up to the free market. We can just throw the bad drivers in jail if they kill somebody. No problem at all, it is surely much more cost effective to spend 40,000 of your tax dollars a year to keep them incarcerated than it would be to have a “New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission” with half a dozen overpaid paper pushers and another few dozen people that get paid average wages to beat down the ‘working man’ and keep him in line.

      • 0 avatar

        If “entire neighborhoods got no service”, doesn’t that sound like a nice opportunity for someone from the neighborhood to make a bit of a killing? Unless, of course, they were barred from doing so by the competition limiters at the “Taxi and Limousine Comission” lobbiers.

        The sheer vapidness required to fall for the line that preventing someone from offering a service to a group of customers, is somehow beneficial for said customers has got to be about as high as it gets. And in this case, the “customers” are the public.

        As for running over pedestrians; that is already illegal. If too few people bother complying with that particular law, that is a pretty good indication that penalties aren’t harsh enough. A simple heuristic of ramping them up until desired compliance is reached should work fairly well in that situation.

        Also not that, in this particular case, the discussion is about an app for prearranging pickups. Meaning, no death race 2000, but rather the app infrastructure arranging fares up front.

        With umpteen percent unemployment, one could only hope more black/green/red/blue/white cars would get this app and step up to the plate on those nasty, rainy days where the privileged and connected yellow ones have ensured hour long waits in their quest to limit competition for their own drivers.

      • 0 avatar

        From what I have read about the medallion system in New York, the model in which they are apparently trying to push in DC, is just a method for the gov’t to create a huge debt in order to apply/purchase one (due to a limited amount of issued medallions) and to force out the small entrepreneurs in the industry. I very much believe this since in society at large many smaller ‘mom and pop’ type operations are being forced out by large corporations. I as a commuter would rather do business with the smaller taxi company who simply could not afford bad word of mouth by driving erratically or treating me poorly vs Yellow Cab type firms who can afford a certain percentage of lost business due to volume.

    • 0 avatar

      “this sounds like another Roosevelt era bureaucracy”

      Was FDR president in 1971? I must have been ditching school on the day that they taught civics.

  • avatar

    It’s not a talking point of any sort to say that the government has inordinate control over much too much in NYC. The idea of a Taxi fleet alone that is approved by the government is the antithesis of how we built the country.

  • avatar
    Chicago Dude

    Uber and the like are essentially taxi-via-black-car services, which cuts into the profits of the actual medallion-holding taxi cabs (said medallion costing well into the six figures in NYC). If NYC could afford to alienate the taxi cabs, they would already have trains that run from the airport to downtown. Like Cleveland. And Chicago. And even Seattle (sort of).

    • 0 avatar

      Hopefully technology like Uber; ideally being used by regular Joes commuting back home with spare seats; in addition to anonymous payment by Bitcoin or simply cash, will route around the obstacle to basic human decency that is NYC(amongst others) government.

    • 0 avatar

      To be fair, NYC isn’t objecting to Uber for black cars, as far as I know. Only for yellow cabs.

      Reading the comments on the NYT thread on this was a hoot. God forbid anything should ever change in NYC.

  • avatar

    ‘Why go through the trouble of paying to have a taxi-hailing application developed when there are already companies begging to provide the service?’

    Sounds more like – ‘If there’s a market for it, your government can do it better. And don’t bother competing, because you will be effectively shut down’.

    No big surprise from the city that bans trans-fats in foods and limits SODA!? to a mere 16oz serving. Other than commerce, why exactly would anyone live there, again?

    And don’t even get me started on Comrade Bloomberg.

    • 0 avatar

      People live in NYC since that is where two thirds of all the money Bernanke is stealing from the rest of the country gets dropped off. And with Benny’s recent apetite for theft, that does add up to quite a heaping of dosh, indeed.

      • 0 avatar

        I adamantly disagree with what Bernanke is doing. I don’t think $ should ‘go’ from Washington or NYC to the Twin Cities or Des Moines any more than $ from the Twin Cities should go to, say, California to bail out a THC induced state government spending orgy.

        PCH, i’m waiting for a reply…:)

      • 0 avatar

        AcuraAndy I think the long term plan is to take us into a death spiral and possibly war, you will never see the current establishment do anything sensible as they are bought and paid for… Berwanker is just an actor on the stage, he’s not the playwright.

      • 0 avatar

        “i’m waiting for a reply”

        Based upon your comment, I don’t think that you really follow what Bernanke’s job is, or what he’s doing.

        But this is a car blog. If you want to understand what the Federal Reserve does and doesn’t do, then you’ll have to get that information elsewhere (hopefully, from a reputable source.)

        As for the taxi thing, it seems to me that the city agency in New York engineers the system in order to keep medallion prices extremely high. They effectively ration the taxis by having far fewer medallions than they could probably otherwise support.

  • avatar

    It’s unthinkable in NYC to leave anything to a free market. However, they do have work to keep the Commission busy:
    ” The Commission’s Board consists of nine members, eight of whom are unsalaried Commissioners. The salaried Chair/Commissioner presides over regularly scheduled public Commission meetings, and is the head of the agency, which maintains a staff of approximately 400 TLC employees assigned to various divisions and bureaus. …

    The TLC licenses and regulates over 50,000 vehicles and approximately 100,000 drivers, and performs safety and emissions inspections of the 13,237 medallion taxicabs three times each year, as well as biennial inspections of all TLC-licensed For-Hire vehicles, making it the most active taxi and limousine licensing regulatory agency in the United States.”

    How much harm would result in NYC was like the many cities that have little or no taxi regulation? No one knows. Only one thing is certain: people who have a medallion (i.e., are members of the oligopoly) like things as they are.

    • 0 avatar

      Good info. While safety checks are very important, I doubt the cars get beat up enough in that period to warrant major work. Has anyone driven taxi before? How many miles could you drive in 4 months?

  • avatar

    I’ve driven both high-end chauffeur and neighborhood black car in NYC.

    Assuming 2 drivers and 24/7 shifts except for maintenance/repairs, a yellow cab could easily do 30-40K in 4 months. My neighbor is a sole owner with his own medallion at puts 80K annually on his Camry Hybrid cab.

    The limo and non-yellow drivers do less, as they spend a lot more time on the curb because of the regulations.

    The high-end services get their cars replaced more often, but the big airport limo companies like Carmel put 400K on a Town Car before it hits the neighborhood services or (hopefully) a junkyard.

    • 0 avatar

      I can say as one who travels a LOT, and to many major cities around the country, that NYC taxis are pretty much the best in the country. Other than in truly foul weather, it is easy to get a cab, they are clean, they are well-maintained, and they all take credit cards. The standard of driving can be a bit, uh, interesting, but still better than anywhere else.

      In contrast, Washington DC is the WORST. The cabs are rolling wrecks, they are scarce, they rarely take plastic, and you are doing well if the driver even speaks English. And the fares are twice as high. So NYC is certainly doing something right.

      As to limiting the number of taxis, can you even imagine how much worse the congestion in NYC would be if there were unlimited numbers of cabs? It is already pretty much a sea of yellow as it is!

  • avatar

    Welcome to the next Detroit.

    • 0 avatar

      Nah, New York at least has gypsy cabs, the car services. The medallion taxi companies in Detroit, in league with government bureaucrats, are keeping cars services from competing with them.

      Lately most efforts to create government licenses usually involve some kind of cronyism to keep out competition. It doesn’t matter if it’s transporting people for hire, styling their hair or designing the decor of their homes, somewhere some guild is looking for a monopoly and some bureaucrat is looking for revenue.

  • avatar

    “As always This time, it’s money, not safety, at risk”

    Back in the day, TTAC would proofread before they posted.

    HTML doesn’t work anymore?

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