Capital New York Councilman wants universal app for hailing taxis by Ryan Hutchins
City Councilman Ben Kallos introduced legislation today that would require the creation of a universal smartphone app for hailing cabs in New York.
The measure is backed by taxi owners and would, in theory, neutralize the threat of e-hail companies like Uber while making it easier to connect with yellow or green borough cabs by app, rather than using the traditional street hail. It follows a similar effort in Chicago,where the city is planning to develop one or several apps that would allow riders to go to one place to hail a cab. Officials in Washington, D.C., are undertaking a similar effort.
“The gist of the bill is it’s designed to allow people to hail yellow and green cabs, where as right now it’s not easy to do that,” Sarah Anders, a spokeswoman for Kallos, said.
Several companies—Uber included—have been authorized by the city to run such apps. Most are dispatching smaller fleets, which can make the app pointless to use if there are no available cars nearby. Uber’s taxi dispatching program is newer and less popular than its black car and livery car systems. One company that had established a presence in New York, Hailo, is pulling out of the North American market.
If it chose to do so, Uber would be able to integrate the dispatching system into its own app, Anders said. It would be required to use the same pricing. It would gain the ability to display available yellow and green cabs.Kallos’ bill, Anders said, would put everything under one roof. The Taxi and Limousine Commission would be required to build or buy an app that would be integrated into the operating systems already on board yellow and green taxis. That would make it more popular with taxi drivers, she said.
But Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration does not appear to be supporting the bill at this point. The city is expected to make its pilot e-hail program permanent and has already extended the test trial phase.
“We’ve had a very successful e-hail pilot program with a number of qualified participants, which has been serving passengers well,” Allan Fromberg, a spokesman for the T.L.C., said in a statement. “We’ve extended the program so we can continue to learn about the e-hail dynamic while we craft a more permanent regulatory framework that maintains crucial consumer protections while challenging the marketplace to continually adapt to the riding public’s needs.”