Backlash against proposed taxi apps

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New Yorkers may be ready to download an easier taxi hailing experience with the touch of a finger – but many drivers are hitting the brakes.

Some drivers are pushing back against plans for apps to hail and pay for cabs by smartphone.

Critics cite worries that the apps might mean fewer cabs available for spontaneous street hails or drivers fumbling with phones while they should have eyes on the road.

Apps like Uber, GetTaxi and Taxi Magic allow users to hail with the tap of a finger.

In June, the Taxi and Limousine Commission collected app proposals from companies like these to allow taxi passengers to pay, hail and even rate their cabbies.

But not all drivers will welcome the apps with open arms – the Livery Roundtable, which represents livery drivers, criticized the plans, saying that that pre-ordering a cab would blur the line with its industry, where people call to order a car, or mean fewer street hails.

Yellow cab driver Charbel Sfeir detailed another potential problematic scenario that could arise from using the apps.

“What happens if you are on Tenth Street and Greenwich, and I’m on 12th Street and Washington. You hit request, and I’ll respond – I’ll be there within minutes,” he said. “(But) sometimes people are running late to work, so they don’t want to wait for me to pick them up, and they will get into a cab driving by or dropping off someone else.”

Also, he said he is concerned about getting tickets while waiting for fares where it is not easy to pull over. “On Fifth Avenue or Madison Avenue, there’s no place to park,” he said. “My concern is No. 1 the tickets.”

And earlier this year, the Maryland-based Taxicab, Limousine and Paratransit Association cautioned that apps could create fare gouging.

TLC spokesman Allan Fromberg said the agency has received positive feedback from cabbies, and they promised to work with the livery industry as they consider apps.

Uber wants to expand to yellow cabs

Uber is already in place in New York City using black livery cars, but the app company announced earlier this month they want to expand their app to the city’s ubiquitous yellow cabs soon.

But there is just one catch: All the apps are still technically illegal under TLC rules.

City officials say they are hoping to legalize paying for cabs via phone soon, but it would not happen before February, when a taxi contract with their credit card payment processor ends.


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