City May Test Smartphone Apps in Taxi Hails
By MATT FLEGENHEIMER December 12, 2012
With some board members still skeptical about authorizing smartphone apps to hail yellow cabs, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission's chairman said Wednesday that the panel was instead likely to consider a pilot program to allow the products for a trial period.
The commission had been expected to vote Thursday on a proposal permitting New Yorkers to request a yellow taxi ride on their smartphones and allowing drivers to receive requests and confirm pickup locations, negating the need for passengers to raise arms toward oncoming traffic.
David S. Yassky, the commission chairman, said it was now probable that a vote would be held instead on a pilot program with similar features.
"Bringing apps into New York would be a change in the way people get taxis," Mr. Yassky said in an interview. "It makes sense to see how that pans out and see if any of the supposed problems with that materialize before you make it permanent."
He said the commission had also discussed limiting an app's geographic reach, possibly restricting New Yorkers to hail taxis that are only a short distance away. Officials have reasoned that this provision would temper the number of empty taxis that bypass would-be passengers on their way to an electronically arranged pickup.
In recent days, amid complaints from the for-hire vehicle industry that smartphone apps would jeopardize their business, it became clear that some commissioners, and perhaps a majority, were prepared to vote down any permanent rule change.