Applewhite: All hail the yellow-cab app
I struggle to do something other New Yorkers may take for granted -- hail a yellow taxi in my own neighborhood. As a black man, I'm often bypassed by yellow cabs in Harlem, only to see the driver stop a block away to pick up my white neighbors.
Soon there'll be an app for that.
On Tuesday, a Manhattan Supreme Court justice dismissed a lawsuit brought by livery cabdrivers that attempted to prevent the Taxi and Limousine Commission from launching a pilot program to test cab-hailing apps across New York City. E-hail apps, such as Hailo and Uber, are already used in cities across the United States, including Boston and Miami, and are changing passengers' ability to access taxis easily. The TLC's effort to introduce e-hailing is a tremendous victory for New Yorkers.
These apps will make taxi service more convenient and efficient. They should boost service in the outer boroughs and foster fare competition because liveries -- which serve many of the neighborhoods where yellow taxis are rare -- are often more costly than yellow cabs.
And the apps also should decrease the racial profiling that hampers service in black and Latino neighborhoods.
E-hail apps could be the great taxi equalizer for groups and neighborhoods that have been historically discriminated against by yellow-taxi drivers in New York City. Some drivers still selectively choose which neighborhoods to travel to and whom they pick up, even though this practice is illegal and can result in penalties for them.
The apps would prevent drivers from cherry-picking customers, because they won't be able to see who's hailing them -- thus, they won't be able to racially profile in increasingly diverse neighborhoods like Harlem, Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant. In her ruling this week, Justice Carol Huff ruled that the TLC's pilot program might be a good way to test the level of profiling in less racially diverse neighborhoods.
Drivers and passengers will also have a way to track trip requests. That should reduce the chance of drivers being robbed or assaulted. New York is a global city that embraces cultural diversity. Its taxi system should do the same.
Sheldon Applewhite is an assistant professor of sociology at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. He tweets as @DrSApplewhite.