Ride or Die

Here Come the Yellow Cab Apps: New York Judge Dismisses E-Hail Lawsuit

"This decision is so fundamentally wrong in so many respects that we are contemplating an appeal." Someone ain't happy.
Mayor Bloomberg and Mr. Dorsey. (Photo: nycgov.tumblr.com)

Disrupt taxis! (Photo: nycgov.tumblr.com)

The era of the e-hail is upon us at last! A judge has dismissed a lawsuit against the city’s taxi apps pilot program, meaning the Taxi and Limousine Commission is free to proceed.

The Livery Roundtable and the Black Car Assistance Corporation filed the lawsuit back in February, just as the TLC’s year-long experiment was scheduled to begin. E-hailing apps would, of course, challenge the stranglehold the black car business has long had on the pre-scheduled pickup business. Naturally, the industry has fought like hell against the program, asking the court for an injunction against it and claiming it exceeded the TLC’s authority and was basically a sneaky way to fully and permanently implement e-hailing.

But the courts didn’t bite. The decision handed down today rejects the request to block the program, noting that most of the parties to the suit “represent or have financial interests in businesses that operate vehicles known as black cars or livery or for-hire cars.” Judge Carol Huff also points out that, contrary to arguments made in the lawsuit, e-hailing apps are likely to reduce discrimination, since it’s not like drivers can see their passengers first.

After going through each of the complaints in the suit, she concludes: “the petition is denied, the restraining order is lifted, and the proceeding is dismissed.” Insert your own Law and Order sound effects.

Randy Mastro, the lawyer handling the case on behalf of the BCAC and other parties, is not a happy camper: “While we are continuing to review it, this decision is so fundamentally wrong in so many respects that we are contemplating an appeal,” he told Betabeat in a statement.

TLC Commissioner David Yassky was singing a happier tune: “The market will ultimately decide which apps rise or fall and we have an obligation to give the riding public that choice. Thanks to today’s ruling, they have that choice.”

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick also took a victory lap, crowing in a statement that, “Ever since our initial launch of Uber for New York CIty yellow cabs in September, we’ve been saying that you can’t stop progress when the people want it enough.”

He also held up the TLC commissioner and the mayor as almost Howard Roark-like warriors against the grain: “New York City has some of the deepest dug-in, most entrenched special interests in the country. The fact that Taxi Commissioner David Yassky and Mayor Mike Bloomberg were able to overcome the transportation industry’s blatant self-interest should be a lesson for other cities and states who also want to be forward-looking, tech-friendly and visionary.”

Don’t expect to whip out Uber for your commute tomorrow morning, though–it’ll take time to get the ball rolling again. But the biggest barrier to the pilot is now gone.

(Update) Hailo CEO Jay Bregman has also provided a statement, saying: “Hailo always believed that e-hailing is not only legal, but inevitable. We are delighted by the ruling and are preparing to launch immediately.”

Follow Kelly Faircloth on Twitter or via RSS. kfaircloth@observer.com