Ride or Die

E-Hailing Ordeal: To Pay With a Taxi App In NYC, You Might Have to Enter a 7-Digit Code

"It’s a nine-member commission and in the debate there was interest that existing stakeholders should be accommodated."
771px yellow cabs 2 E Hailing Ordeal: To Pay With a Taxi App In NYC, You Might Have to Enter a 7 Digit Code

(Photo: Wikimedia)

Early adopters who have been using apps like Uber and Hailo to hail and pay taxis in cities like San Francisco, Washington D.C., and London may find the process in New York City a little less seamless.

That’s because companies that currently process credit cards in New York’s yellow cabs–Verifone and Creative Mobile Technologies–want riders to have to enter a seven-digit code (that will pop up on the Taxi TV screen) before they can pay with an app, the Taxi and Limousine Commission told Betabeat this afternoon.

In other cities, riders typically just have to tap their approval, relying on credit card info stored in the app.

Both the vendors and the apps “are fighting about who gets to process payments and who gets the revenue that comes with that,” TLC Commissioner David Yassky said by phone. “But my goal is to watch out for the passenger and make sure that the apps are easy-to-use and as available as possible.”

In December, the TLC overcame lobbying from the black car and livery cab industry to pass a year-long pilot program to test out e-hailing apps in New York City starting on February 15th. According to the proposal, apps that wanted approval had to integrate with existing credit card processors. However, the chair may waive that rule, unless the app wanted to do so. “We’re not going to allow the integration requiement to get in the way of the passenger having an easy to use e-hail experience,” Mr.  Yassy said.

However, as the start date of the pilot program approaches, things still appear to be in flux. On an earlier call this afternoon, Mr. Yassky wasn’t initially familiar with the seven-digit-code request and had to consult with deputy commissioner Ashwini Chhabra. When the pilot program was announced, it was assumed that next week would bring a flood of apps to the market, including Uber and Hailo, but as stipulations get hammered out, it will likely take longer than expected.

When we asked Mr. Yassky why the TLC would bother incorporating the concern of Verifone and CMT, whose contracts with the city are up this month (Jack Dorsey’s Square is competing for that contract), he chalked it up to “a reality of the political process.”

“It’s a nine-member commission and in the debate there was interest that existing stakeholders should be accommodated,” he added.

Mr. Chhabra assured Betabeat that if the integration requirement is waived, the T-PEP vendors will still be able to share the meter info with e-hailing apps in order for it to calculate the correct fare. “You could have what I would call the best of both worlds,” he said, “which is that you get that metered info in the app, but you don’t go down the clunky procedure,” of having to enter in a code in order to process the payment.

This is just the latest setback in the arduous process to bring the convenience of e-hailing into New York City’s yellow cab market. It started back when Travis Kalanick, Uber’s libertarian CEO, cried disruption as a reason to jump the gun on the political process, bulldozing his way from black cars to yellow cabs.

In fact, with Mayor Bloomberg’s blessing, the TLC has fought with other commissioners to push for as much innovation as possible, while balancing legitimate concerns about whether the apps will decrease availability for street hails. But good luck getting the Randians not to blame this on big government.

Follow Nitasha Tiku on Twitter or via RSS. ntiku@observer.com
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