NEW YORK (AP) New York City's experiment with taxi-hailing smartphone apps got a green light Tuesday from an appeals court.
The state Supreme Court's Appellate Division said the city can continue a yearlong test of "e-hail" services, which would allow riders to summon the city's signature yellow taxis with their smartphones instead of raised arms.
Traditionally, New York City's roughly 13,000 yellow cabs have been prohibited from taking pre-arranged rides. But the taxi commission approved the e-hail experiment in December, saying that the city shouldn't turn its back on new taxi technology.
Car service owners sued, saying the project unfairly blurs a legal line between yellow and livery cabs, which are barred from picking up passengers on streets and so depend on prearranged rides. The lawsuit also contended that the project was too broad to qualify as a test.
But the court said the test "was properly adopted" and allowable under city laws.
"New York City has always been a taxi-hailing town, and we're pleased to be able to offer passengers more than one way to accomplish that," city Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky said in a statement.
A lawyer for e-hail opponents didn't immediately return a call about the ruling, which upheld a lower court decision.
With the appeals court's approval, a few companies started offering the service while the appeal played out.
Using an app, a potential passenger requests a ride, all participating cabbies within a certain distance get the inquiry and the driver who responds first gets the fare. E-hail systems are already in use in some other cities in the U.S. and abroad, including London.
Some cabbies are finding e-hailing useful to connect with passengers late at night and outside Manhattan, said Michael Woloz, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, a group representing fleet owners with a total of more than 5,200 cabs. The association joined the lawsuit to support e-hailing.
"It's something that our drivers are learning how to best utilize," Woloz said by phone.
During nearly 12 years in office, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has driven a number of changes to the city's taxi system. Several have spurred lawsuits.
This month, a court blocked a plan to transform the fleet with a minivan-style "Taxi of Tomorrow," three weeks before it was to start taking effect. The city is appealing that ruling.
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