Uber, a startup that wanted to test an idea of allowing people to use an app to hail a cab, has won its day in court, getting permission to deploy through the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC). The lawsuit had been brought by the city (likely at the behest of some vested interests) because they claimed that the app (and others like it) blur the lines between a taxi and a liveried car (limousine) service.
New York City boasts one of the world’s most complex transit industries in a quasi public-private partnership of various services and transportation options that often collide in various ways (figuratively and literally). Over time, the laws, regulations, and lobbying in and around these various services have become myriad and hard to follow. Most of the charges brought against TLC (and by implication, Uber who was providing the test app) were pretty ludicrous on their face: discrimination against the elderly and the lack of an environmental impact study, for starters.
The judge dismissed the charges one at a time, usually on technicalities or for failure to show clear evidence.
Similar apps to the one created by Uber, collectively called e-hail apps, have run into similar opposition from established transportation groups and governance bodies in San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and other places. The TLC was one of the few to circumvent an outright ban by rolling out a “pilot project” for an e-hail service to test the idea.
In the New York case, the judge rightly noted that with only one exception, an elderly man brought in to substantiate the “discrimination” claim, every petitioner in the case against TLC and Uber was someone with a vested interest commercially opposed to the e-hail concept.
TLC and Uber plan to roll out the app in a year-long test program starting very soon, now that the suit is decided.