Need more evidence that tech-based competitors like Uber, Lyft, Gett and others are having an impact on city life?
Note the latest proposal from freshman City Councilmember Ben Kallos. The Upper East Side Democrat wants the Taxi and Limousine Commission to approve a city-branded e-hail app. This would give yellow cabs the technology to take on Uber and others on their own turf.
Yellow cabs wouldn’t be required to use the app, but considering the impact Uber’s app has had on the traditional yellow-cab model, they would be foolish not to.
Kallos’ idea is good as far as it goes and contrasts favorably with how other municipalities have reacted to an industry disrupter like Uber. In India, for example, New Delhi has just banned Uber.
Kallos promotes his idea as pro-consumer, noting that e-hailed yellow cabs wouldn’t be using Uber’s “surge pricing” — i.e., charging a premium fee during especially busy periods.
But there’s nothing wrong with this, so long as Uber is upfront about its charges to its customers.
To be fair, Kallos is candid about his full motives: He wants to protect the value of yellow-cab medallions, the sale of which is part of city revenues. In just a year, the price of yellow-cab medallions has plunged from $1.2 million to an average of $872,000.
But it’s not the city’s job to give one player a boost over his competitors. We’re all for letting yellow cabs in on the e-hail action. But let’s return the favor by letting app-based car services pick up street hails.
And move New York toward what should be the real goal: a competitive cab market where no one gets special treatment.