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Uber Gives Up On New York Taxi Service 180

Posted by Soulskill
from the impeding-progress dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Uber, the startup behind a mobile app for connecting transportation services with people who need rides, has halted its efforts to partner with New York cab drivers. They've been fighting an uphill battle against regulators, who have warned drivers that they could face fines or loss of license if they worked with Uber. The company's CEO wrote, 'Demand far out-stripped supply, making you feel pretty lucky when you got a yellow from your iPhone. We did the best we could to get more yellows on the road but New York's TLC (Taxi and Limousine Commission) put up obstacles and roadblocks in order to squash the effort around e-hail, which they privately have said is legal under the rules. We'll bite our tongues and keep our frustration here to ourselves.'" Update: 10/17 00:48 GMT by S : Here's TLC's perspective, in the words of Commissioner David Yassky: "In recent months, as e-hail apps have emerged, TLC has undertaken serious diligence and is moving toward rule changes that will open the market to app developers and other innovators. Those changes cannot legally take place until our existing exclusive contracts expire in February. We are committed to making it as easy as possible to get a safe, legal ride in a New York City taxi, and are excited to see how emerging technology can improve that process. Our taxis have always been on the cutting edge of technological innovation, from GPS systems to credit card readers."
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Uber Gives Up On New York Taxi Service

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  • NYC is the one place where I think that this isn't needed. All you can in NYC is hail a taxi or ride the subway.

    • by desertfool (21262)

      all you *can* do....

      Dang, must read before submit.

    • by alen (225700)

      As long as you don't go out of manhattan

    • by StandardDeviant (122674) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @07:40PM (#41675917) Homepage Journal

      Hahahaha. Have you ever visited NYC, let alone lived there? Getting a cab can be a pain in the ass even in mid-town. "Oh, look the 500th fuckin cab that's full or off duty! Might as well stand here with my arm in the air for another twenty minutes like a fucking tourist!"

      The MTA may get you where you want to go, but might take two hours to do it. JFK to BX w/out MNR, anyone?

      Seriously tell me hailing a cab is easy after you've tried to do it while standing in the snow an hour after bars close and you don't want to take three more God-forsaken hours to get home to an outer borough shithole apartment that costs $waytoofuckinmuch... Not that I'm bitter. :)

      • Yeah right NYC should back out of their existing contracts and pay damages to allow these "special" people to sidestep the whole process THAT ALL THE OTHER SERVICES MUST ENDURE.

        • by ThatsMyNick (2004126) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @08:18PM (#41676249)

          Nope. What we are asking for is to get rid of these stupid medallions (not right now, when the contracts or whatever expire). Create a real free market of taxi companies competing with each other. Atleast of them would ready embrace Uber.

        • by flyneye (84093)

          That's what happened to Horses!
          Damned cars came along and put a lot of people out of work.
          There were loads of saddle and buggy makers put out of business.
          I bet they and their families starved since no one ever does more than one thing in their lifetime.
          If we hadn't let cars take over we would have clean air and enough manure to fertilize EVERYTHING.
          Think of the ponies!
          Now the cabs. Well that's what they get for putting faith in cars!
          Now if they could just come up with an app to fix stupid.

        • by AK Marc (707885)
          What's the contract? They must exclusively use some things? I'm confused why they'd go out of their way to block such apps. They didn't just ignore then and not work with them, but attacked them.
      • by gewalker (57809) <Gary DOT Walker AT AstraDigital DOT com> on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @07:53PM (#41676037)

        Thank the government / crony capitalism duo . Taxi medallions are now worth 1 million $ in NYC these days. Slate had a good article [slate.com] on the situation. If taxi prices were set by the market, you would save a bunch, and they would be likely to support Uber as they might see a competitive advantage in doing so.

        • "If taxi prices were set by the market"

          The entire island of manhattan would be covered in taxi cabs. There would be total gridlock 24 hours a day.

          • Apply congestion surcharges, the traffic will move better than ever and it is not just the taxis that would be affected.

          • And then no one would use taxi's because they never move and the taxi drivers would go out of business...and there would be less taxis and things would start moving again. It's called a system with incentives and feedback mechanisms. Taxi drivers don't like sitting in gridlock just for fun just as people don't like sitting in taxi's that don't move and charge the money for the experience.
            • by mcgrew (92797) *

              And then no one would use taxi's

              I'm offtopic but have wondered for a long, long while: Why is that apostrophe there? I see it more and more. What is its purpose?

              • It is a combination of my fingers being trained to frequently type an apostrophe before a final 's' that is added onto a word and my lack of paying attention. In this case, it serves no purpose :P
                I could try and make a lame argument about how I was implying a "taxi's services" in that context but the lack of an 'a' before taxis means it was plural and the apostrophe would go after the 's'. So it is wrong in either case.
          • by jcr (53032)

            The entire island of manhattan would be covered in taxi cabs.

            Nope. There would be a substantial increase, which would continue until the supply met the demand.

            -jcr

          • by chill (34294)

            Then I suggest you invest in a rickshaw service. Maybe rent Segways. You'll make a killing.

            • by russotto (537200)

              Then I suggest you invest in a rickshaw service. Maybe rent Segways. You'll make a killing.

              All regulated to death in NYC.

              • His suggestion was in a mythical situation where NYC politicians allowed the free market to determine the pricing for taxi services (and who could actually offer such a service0. Of course, they will never do that because that would require the government (and progressives in particular) to stop helping certain favored companies from making a profit at the expense of the common man.
          • by TheLink (130905)
            What's the percentage of cabs in Manhattan traffic now?

            Would the cabs being cheaper and more plentiful cause actual traffic to go down since fewer people would use private cars?
            • Taxis make the return trip empty, DOUBLING the traffic load for one ride

              • by TheLink (130905)
                Taxi drivers try not to make too many empty trips. They make more money that way.

                With more intelligent systems the proportion of empty trips should go down.
      • by thammoud (193905)

        I wish I had mod points but alas. NYC, especially during rush hour , is almost impossible to get a cab. They apparently change shifts during that time. I feel blessed living in Chicago. Getting a cab at anytime is a breeze.

      • by jonwil (467024)

        And if you allow these kinds of e-hail apps to continue to operate, it just increases the number of cabs that are unavailable to pick up street hails (since they are all heading to an e-hail)
        I can see where the TLC is coming from here...

      • Seriously tell me hailing a cab is easy after you've tried to do it while standing in the snow an hour after bars close and you don't want to take three more God-forsaken hours to get home to an outer borough shithole apartment that costs $waytoofuckinmuch... Not that I'm bitter. :)

        Most intelligent city residents bother to keep the number of a good car service... I can remember "four ones" from growing up there, I'm sure similar companies exist nowadays.

        And in pretty much any other city, the *only* way you

      • Depends on where/when - some places there are piles of "town cars" with drivers loitering nearby who are more than willing to book a ride to the airport for, well, how about right now? They're not taxicabs, wink wink.

      • Hailing a cab in NYC is still easier than just about anywhere in the world.

        And since the problem is an actual (artificial) scarcity of cabs, improving information with an app isn't going to help: you aren't getting a cab because the cab can't find you, you aren't getting a cab because there are too few licensed cabs.

      • by Grishnakh (216268)

        I've been to NYC several times now, the most recent time being two days ago. In my experience, the MTA is absolutely great at getting you around very quickly, between most of the places it goes, especially between subway stops. The subways aren't the newest or cleanest in the world, but there's lots of them and they'll get you around pretty quickly. However, if you need to go someplace where the MTA doesn't go, or you need to go to Long Island, it's an absolute nightmare. Getting over to NJ, or to Long

        • by nedlohs (1335013)

          to JFK airport, is a giant PITA and requires either a horribly expensive cab ride (esp. if you need to cross any bridges--holy shit, $20 to cross a bridge?) or a special bus or a light rail that only leaves every couple hours.

          Seriously, the A train runs every 20 minutes (every 5 at peak) as does the LIRR to Jamaica, both of which get you to the Airtrain to JFK which runs every 5-10 minutes. The LIRR ends up costing about $15 and taking 30 minutes.

          Why on earth is there not a subway line straight to every a

          • by Grishnakh (216268)

            Last time I was there was 2002. I remember being able to get a weeklong unlimited pass for less than $20. I went through nearly that much, per person, in a single day on my recent trip, and didn't see any options for unlimited passes except maybe for a monthly one which was quite expensive (considering I was only there for a day).

            What is the "SAS" line? And why did they name it after British and Australian special forces regiments?

            However, you're wrong about commuters and light rails: while airports migh

            • by nedlohs (1335013)

              The 7 day pass is now $29. 2002 was the tail of a price segment, the 7 day pass went up to $21 in 2003, so yes it was cheaper when you used it last. But not because it's gone *WAY* up now, it just had a few years of inflation baked in at that point.

                Second Avenue Subway.

              Sure there's a handful of silly light rails but the vast bulk of njtransit and LIRR lines are not light rail.

      • by Guspaz (556486)

        tl;dr: it took me over an hour to hail a cab in Brooklyn. Hailing a cab is impossible in the vast majority of NYC.

        I was in NYC this past Sunday. I was in Brooklyn, and had an international flight out of LaGuardia two and a half hours later. Naturally, I assumed this was plenty of time, since it was a 20-30 minute cab ride to the airport. I started on a busy street corner (Nostrand and Fulton), and tried to hail a cab. Of all the many cars passing, virtually none were cabs, any cab that did pass was occupied

  • Just goes to show (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Scutter (18425) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @07:32PM (#41675823) Journal

    There's no efficiency improvement or human betterment that can't be completely destroyed by bureaucracy and greed.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      There's no efficiency improvement or human betterment that can't be completely destroyed by bureaucracy and greed.

      Of course, you forget that the reverse is true: Destroying bureaucracy and greed results in efficiency improvement and human betterment. So if the NY Taxi Commission is no longer serving the public interest the general public should tell them to take a long walk off a short pier. There is no law or police force that can contend with half a million angry New Yorkers surrounding the commissioners and telling them it's time for them to leave town. And of all the things that piss of New Yorkers, things that obs

      • New Yorkers just don't have the balls to say or do anything anymore.

        JESUS FUCKING CHRIST

        You sit in your heated house with your computer and your internet and you think that IT ALL APPEARED OUT OF NOWHERE

        These things were FINANCED and PAID FOR by those VERY PEOPLE that you accuse of "not having any balls"

        Shit the reason you even WANT THEM IN THE FIRST PLACE is because of MADISON AVENUE MARKETERS

        They don't have any balls and yet THEY CONTROL YOUR LIFE

        • by hawguy (1600213)

          New Yorkers just don't have the balls to say or do anything anymore.

          JESUS FUCKING CHRIST

          You sit in your heated house with your computer and your internet and you think that IT ALL APPEARED OUT OF NOWHERE

          My heat doesn't come from NYC, I'm not aware of any natural gas wells in NYC. Much of the development of computers internet sites that people use daily occurred on the West Coast of the USA, with most of the physical components coming from Asia.

          These things were FINANCED and PAID FOR by those VERY PEOPLE that you accuse of "not having any balls"

          Oh, you mean the banking executives in San Francisco? (not to mention the Asian banks that funded much of the industry that creates our computers and powers our internet.

          Shit the reason you even WANT THEM IN THE FIRST PLACE is because of MADISON AVENUE MARKETERS

          They don't have any balls and yet THEY CONTROL YOUR LIFE

          I won't deny that much of the best (meaning worst) marketing comes from NYC.

      • Re:Just goes to show (Score:5, Informative)

        by artor3 (1344997) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @08:14PM (#41676209)

        The reason Uber isn't being allowed in NYC is because there are some pre-existing contracts that prohibit them. Those contracts will expire in a few months (February of next year), at which point we can negotiate new contracts that allow Uber in.

        Is your position that we should just tear up contracts whenever we no longer feel like they're benefiting us? Because that would spell the end of the civilization that you love to take for granted.

        According to a statement from TLC Commissioner David Yassky, existing "exclusive contracts" are the reason that Uber can’t use cabs in the city.

        Those contracts are part of the Taxicab Passengers Enhancement Project (TPEP), which provides various hardware including GPS data collection, credit card processing and two-way messaging with drivers. Under the TPEP system, Creative Mobile Technologies and VeriFone have an exclusive contract to provide such infrastructure and services to the TLC.

        But Yassky added that these contracts are set to expire in February 2013 and will help the agency move "towards rule changes that will open the market to app developers and other innovators."

        • Is your position that we should just tear up contracts whenever we no longer feel like they're benefiting us? Because that would spell the end of the civilization that you love to take for granted.

          They are the only people responsible for being in this mess themselves. They screwed up, and now the public is suffering because of their incompetence. They should be removed from office, to ensure the next batch of contracts doesn't contain some similarly stupid language that will probably be in there for the same reason the current contracts have idiotic clauses in it: Kickbacks. Corrupt public officials? Remove them. It's simple. I'm not advocating "the end of civilization", I'm advocating the end of a s

        • by gl4ss (559668)

          the tlc was in no position legally to give legal monopoly to to those contracts(of ehailing, cc processing) things in the first place.

      • And of all the things that piss of New Yorkers, things that obstruct the free flow of traffic ranks right up there with the coffee machine breaking. So... where are the angry New Yorkers?

        Presumably not reading the hype about new startups. This is not something I would expect people to riot about. Was the city for some reason excited, convinced that this was going to solve all their traffic problems forever? Or are you personally just angry at this example of bad government and assuming other people aren't apathetic about it?

      • by sFurbo (1361249)

        Destroying bureaucracy and greed results in efficiency improvement and human betterment.

        Not necessarily. Bureaucracy is the way organisations make sure they follow certain rules, so without bureaucracy, no rules. That does not improve efficiency or the human condition. The same goes for greed: Without greed, people would not work to better their own situation, so human betterment is pretty much out of the question. The optimal amount of each is not 0, and not infinity, the trick is to find a situation close to the optimum.

        As for angry New Yorkers driving the commissioners out of town, that w

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by rsmith-mac (639075)
      Before calling it greed, it would be useful to get the story from the other side.

      Taxi officials say that Uber's service may not be legal since city rules do not allow for prearranged rides in yellow taxis. They also forbid cabbies from using electronic devices while driving and prohibit any unjustified refusal of fares. (Under Uber's policy, once a driver accepts a ride through the app, no other passenger can be picked up.)

      Councilman James Vacca, the chairman of the City Council's transportation committee

      • The NYC TLC and the city councilors have significant concerns about this effectively siphoning off high paying customers, leaving few cabs for the lower classes. I'm not sure that's rational, but I also wouldn't call it greed.

        The greed would be charging over a hundred grand for "medallions" that are required to operate a taxi. If there's a shortage of taxicabs at affordable rates, it's not because of a lack of vehicles, manpower, or capital -- it's because the City Council controls the number of cabs on the road by making the cost of entry exceptionally high. If they're so worried about the poor having adequate access to taxi services, perhaps Ye Old Taxicab OPEC ought to think about increasing production.

        • by nedlohs (1335013)

          The don't control the number of cabs by making the cost high. They make the cost high by controlling the number of cabs.

          In the 1930s when the system was introduced there were about 17000 medallions, now there are about 13000.

        • The greed would be charging over a hundred grand for "medallions" that are required to operate a taxi.

          NYC doesn't charge anything for a taxi medallion - they're bought and sold on the open market.

          If they're so worried about the poor having adequate access to taxi services, perhaps Ye Old Taxicab OPEC ought to think about increasing production.

          Ah - if only it were that simple. But in reality, increasing the number of cabs decreases the amount of income available to all and increases the number of ve

      • "As a councilman from the Bronx," he said, "a disparity like that does concern me."

        But when I make it to senator, eh, not so much.

      • by sFurbo (1361249)

        Before calling it greed, it would be useful to get the story from the other side.

        Taxi officials say that Uber's service may not be legal since city rules do not allow for prearranged rides in yellow taxis. They also forbid cabbies from using electronic devices while driving and prohibit any unjustified refusal of fares. (Under Uber's policy, once a driver accepts a ride through the app, no other passenger can be picked up.)

        So you can't call the taxi company and order a cab? Or if you do, if it gets hailed on its way to you, you will not get a cab?

        Councilman James Vacca, the chairman of the City Council's transportation committee, said that the spread of taxi apps had the potential to create a "two-tiered taxi system" in the city: one for people "with fancy smartphones" who are asked to pay a premium, and one for everybody else.

        The NYC TLC and the city councilors have significant concerns about this effectively siphoning off high paying customers, leaving few cabs for the lower classes. I'm not sure that's rational, but I also wouldn't call it greed.

        If that was really the worry, the could make more medallions, or even scrap that system all together.

        • by nedlohs (1335013)

          So you can't call the taxi company and order a cab? Or if you do, if it gets hailed on its way to you, you will not get a cab?

          You can't order a cab in NYC.

          It's a "great" system, you can't book a taxi you have to hail one.

          And you can't hail hire car service, you have to book one.

    • How adding more vehicles to overcrowded streets is an "efficiency improvement"

      • by BlueStrat (756137)

        How adding more vehicles to overcrowded streets is an "efficiency improvement"

        Why do you assume there would be significantly more cabs, to the point of becoming a problem, than there are currently?

        See, there are these things involved with operating a taxi called costs and expenses. If there are too many taxis competing for riders, some of those taxis won't generate enough income to cover these costs and expenses and will stop operating.

        Other large cities that don't restrict taxi licensing like NYC are not flooded with cabs. Service is generally much cheaper and better as well for the

        • by Grishnakh (216268)

          I don't know about your city, but I live in Phoenix and have used cabs in both here and in NYC. They're no cheaper here (they cover a little more distance for the price maybe, but that's because the city isn't nearly as dense, and you need to go much farther here anyway because of the lower density so it's a wash). And I definitely wouldn't call the service "better"; the cabs here are just as stinky, and here, unlike NYC, the cabbies don't know where anything is, so you have to give them directions as the

  • An officially sanctioned cab hailing app. For only $19.99/month you get unlimited cab hailing plus a 3% discount on all fares.

    Small print: 5% surcharge for cabs hailed with our app.

    Mother fuck you if you think we'll allow you to do something that may be perfectly legal if we can do the same and stuff our pockets.

  • by Nemyst (1383049) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @07:57PM (#41676061) Homepage

    I saw this on TV a few days ago:
    http://tag-taxi.com/ [tag-taxi.com]

    The app seems rather cool. It's the same basic principle of using an app to get a taxi, except you also get integration with the taxi's own GPS so you know precisely where the taxi is while it's on its way. The entire process looks rather streamlined and I'll be curious to see whether this one will work. Response from Taxi Diamond (one of the largest taxi companies in Montreal) certainly sounds a lot more positive than NYC's taxi companies.

  • Nice in NYC. I have used Uber the last 3-4 times I've been in NYC to call a driver when I couldn't get a cab in short order (and/or it was raining). I was curious to see if this 'taxi' service worked...not surprised about the pushback. It is *far and away* the best thing out there if you travel a good deal. You get a nice car, a pleasant (typically charming) driver, and no money changes hands. Absolutely essential in SanFran.

  • by Virtucon (127420) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @08:46PM (#41676473)

    Taxi Commissions everywhere don't like Uber. In DC recently, Uber has had to defend its practices because the DC Taxi Commission who is out to get rid of them. [thedailybeast.com] Why? You have to get a license to operate in DC and that means revenue for them.

    So that's just in DC, where most of the "regulated" cabs are broken down piles of crap that usually don't have A/C in the summer and have tons of other issues.

    Now, New York? well New York allows a monopoly on hired car services whether it be hired cars (limos) or Taxis. New York says it's to "regulate" theses business so they don't overcharge and so that the streets are not overrun by cabs, of course that would mean competition and drive down prices. What the city really wants to do is keep getting all those fees and regulations to keep coming at you. Let's see you apply, have to take a test then 80 hours of training then a medical test, then pee in a cup. All of that generates jobs and it's considered necessary to be allowed to drive in a New York Taxi with a hack license. Now if you want to own your own cab, that's more fun. If you want a medallion be prepared to pony up big time [slate.com] and all it does is make cab fares higher and squeeze the guy who's trying to make a living. Try a million dollars for a medallion. What that does is create a monopoly on service and New York likes that...

    Oh and you have to have a medallion if you want to be able to pick up passengers in response to a street hail. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxicabs_of_New_York_City [wikipedia.org]

    So, Uber comes along and wants to shake things up and make it easier for suppliers and consumers to link up? Do you think New York is going to allow this when it's so lucrative and bureaucratic all at the same time? Not in this life pal.

  • by Zakabog (603757) <john&jmaug,com> on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @08:55PM (#41676561)

    Can't you just as easily call a car service? I live in Brooklyn and work in Manhattan. I never take a yellow cab anywhere in Manhattan, I always ride the subway (or drive if I need a car for work.) If I'm in Brooklyn and I'm feeling lazy or just tired I call a car service. The other option would be to allow this app to contact a car service for you. Why does it need to hail a yellow cab?

  • by sunfly (1248694) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @09:29PM (#41676853)
    The bigger question is, how the hell did one company get to create a monopoly on taxi service in a major city?
    • Because they TRIED the other way and the result is cab drivers who don't know their way around the city, costing people MORE money in longer trips.

      The closed system ensures that your cab driver will have sufficient knowledge of the city to get you to your destination quickly.

      • by dkf (304284)

        Because they TRIED the other way and the result is cab drivers who don't know their way around the city, costing people MORE money in longer trips.

        In-car navigation systems stop working as soon as they cross the NYC city limits?

        • by tgd (2822)

          Because they TRIED the other way and the result is cab drivers who don't know their way around the city, costing people MORE money in longer trips.

          In-car navigation systems stop working as soon as they cross the NYC city limits?

          The universe didn't snap into being ten years ago when GPS navigation systems started showing up in cars.

          Oh, and all the cab drivers looking at their GPS all the time in NYC traffic would lead to a lot of dead pedestrians.

          • by nedlohs (1335013)

            The universe didn't snap into being ten years ago when GPS navigation systems started showing up in cars.

            In which case the argument that it was "TRIED the other way" is invalid since there are some large differences since it was tried.

            Oh, and all the cab drivers looking at their GPS all the time in NYC traffic would lead to a lot of dead pedestrians.

            Usable GPS units use sound to tell the driver where to go - just like a passenger giving directions does. They only have to look at the GPS when entering the de

      • by nedlohs (1335013)

        Everything is easy to argue if you are willing to revise history to match your fantasy.

        In actual fact the medallions were introduced in the great depression in order to restrict the number of taxis since supply was dwarfing demand resulting in drivers not making enough money and hence working stupidly long hours and skipping maintenance and so on. You know, the opposite problem to costing passengers more money.

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