Forget The Whistle: NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission Changes Rules For Cab-Hailing Apps

You can use an app to order a pizza, another to refill your prescriptions and there’s probably one out there that will just tell you you’re pretty, so why not an app to hail a cab? In New York City, the issue of taxi-hailing apps has been a hot issue, as the apps go against rules that forbid cabs from making pre-arranged pick-ups. That’s all about to change, as the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission voted to approve a temporary new set of rules that will allow such apps.

Back in September we heard about a cab-hailing app called Uber that was stirring up controversy in the city. Proponents of these apps see it as a great way to avoid having to wait for a cab, but opponents were of the mind that they would only benefit people with smart phones willing to pay whichever additional taxes and fees were included.

No matter which side you were on, it was a moot point as the TLC had a rule that leaves pre-arranged pickups to town cars and on-the-go rides were left to a person standing on a street using their hand to flag a yellow cab down.

This morning the TLC voted on rules that will allow cabbies and riders to use electronic hailing apps to flag down, accept and even pay for a ride, reports the Wall Street Journal. The rules are part of a one-year pilot program and are the brainchild of the TLC’s chairman, with the backing of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration.

There will be some limits set up in the rules that apps will have to follow: The apps can’t let cab drivers accept ride requests from distances farther than a half-mile from if they’re in Manhattan’s central business district, or 1.5 miles in other boroughs and upper Manhattan. Ostensibly, that’s so a cab that’s been hired via the app wouldn’t have to drive past too many people waiting on the street.

In addition, apps must allow drivers to accept fares with one touch and process payments through the equipment used to do so already in place in cabs. Another rule forbids apps paying drivers additional fees if they use the app to find fares instead of picking up customers on the street.

In a year the TLC will review how the program has gone and figure out if it should continue or be shelved.

Based on the city’s app-happy attitude, it’s likely that this business will soon be booming, along with the surge in smartphone usage. Basically, TLC Chairman  David Yassky says, the city is going with the times.

“The short of it is, we should not ignore technology that’s out there,” Yassky said before the vote. “This is not speculative. This is real today. We can look at other cities and see passengers are using these products and benefiting from them.”