Are riders eager to hail cabs with their smartphones? Sure they are.
There’s nothing New Yorkers like better than technology that spares us from urban annoyances. Wait — there is one thing. Litigation. So perhaps it’s inevitable that a program to let New Yorkers hail a cab with a smartphone app — with no yelling, no arm-waving, no diving into a nasty curbside scrum — is tied up in court.
When the Bloomberg administration signed off on the e-hail pilot program in December, the livery-car industry sued. E-hails were legally restrained. A judge dismissed the suit in late April and the program was on again. It launched late last week but was quickly suspended again pending an expedited review by state appellate judges.
The livery industry insists the city’s Taxi & Limousine Commission lacks legal authority to implement e-hails and says the app would discriminate against the elderly, who are less likely to own smartphones.
The Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, a group of yellow taxi fleet owners, has weighed in on the city’s side. Cross your fingers and hope the city wins.
Here’s how easy an e-hail can be: You stand on a street with your smartphone. You plug your address into an app called “Uber.” You get a reply telling you the location of the nearest available cab and the name of the driver. The taxi comes right up to you — yours without a struggle.
There may be bugs to work out. Some users in the brief life of local e-hails have said it’s much easier to hail a cab the old-fashioned way than to find a participating nearby driver via e-hail. But assuming such problems are fixable, the program sounds smart and logical.
And yet, New York is a place that routinely ignores logic. For example, our politicians have long bowed to pressure from some medallion owners to limit the supply of yellow cabs. That’s why it’s so hard to find one at peak times and in bad weather.
It’s difficult to say for sure how the e-hail fight will end. But hope for a quick reinstatement of e-hails. Taxi riders shouldn’t take a backseat to livery interests.