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Judge halts NYC taxi e-hailing

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POSTED May 1, 2013 9:32 p.m.

 

NEW YORK (AP) — Two days into the city's experiment with taxi-summoning apps, e-hailing stalled Wednesday when a judge put the project on hold.

The apps, challenged by car service owners, are now back in limbo for at least a few weeks. State Supreme Court Appellate Division Justice Helen Freedman ordered the e-hailing programs to stop until a panel of judges weighs the case and decides, expected later this month.

The e-hail opponents, who say the program could ruin their livelihoods, are gratified, said their lawyer, Randy Mastro.

The program "is so fundamentally flawed and illegal in so many ways. It had to be stopped," he said by phone.

City officials said they expected to prevail with what they see as an innovative option for snagging one of the city's famous yellow cabs.

"Taxi-hailing apps are not only good for the riding public but perfectly legal as well," Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky said in a statement. "You can't stop progress, and these obstructionists shouldn't be trying."

The judge's order came a day after Uber Technologies launched its e-hail service in the city. A lower court had cleared the way just last week.

The idea: Passengers use an app to request a ride, the request goes to all participating cabbies within a certain distance and the driver who responds first gets the fare.

In December, the Taxi and Limousine Commission OK'd a yearlong test. Livery cab owners and groups sued, saying it was too broad to qualify as a test program and was unfair to them.

Until now, yellow cabs haven't been allowed to take pre-arranged fares. Car services depend on those because they can't pick up passengers who hail cabs on streets.

"We went to court to fight not only for our industry but for our system of checks and balances," representatives for two of the groups, the Livery Round Table and the Black Car Assistance Corp., said in a statement.

The opponents also have said app-hailing could revive concerns about cabbies discriminating against passengers based on their race, whereabouts or destination and could make it difficult for people without smartphones, particularly senior citizens, to get taxis.

Last week's ruling reasoned that e-hails instead could spare seniors from walking far to get cabs and might lessen discrimination because drivers wouldn't be able to see their fares when accepting them.

 

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