Taxi chief wants e-hail apps approved

Outgoing Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky on Thursday said he will hold a vote to approve rules for e-hail apps next month, before Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio takes over City Hall.

Yassky was pleased with the results of a three-month TLC study of the e-hail pilot program that showed nearly 55,000 people requesting a taxi using the app more than 233,000 times. A quarter of e-hail requests were successful, while more than 4,000 drivers completed an e-hail trip.

“I personally am satisfied that the results are encouraging … enough for us to declare that this is worth doing on an ongoing basis,” Yassky said.

E-hail apps allow passengers to use their smartphones to connect with nearby yellow or livery cabs to arrange a pick up.

Taryn Yaeger, an analyst for policy and planning at the TLC, said that there was a spike in e-hail requests early in the study, which started June 6, but steadily decreased throughout the summer.

“This is probably due to the passengers gaining experience and learning the times of day and the locations at which they are likely to be successful at e-hailing,” Yaeger said.

The upside, however, was a fourfold increase in the number of successful trips made using e-hail apps that participated in the pilot, Uber, Taxi Magic and Hailo. One out of every 700 trips was an e-hail, and they were mainly concentrated in Manhattan’s Central Business District, similar to street hails. There were, however, a high rate of e-hail pick ups in western Queens and north Brooklyn neighborhoods.

The study also showed that half of the passengers who e-hailed a taxi would have grabbed a ride the old fashioned way; 13% would have called or hailed a car service and 37% would have found other means to get to their destination.

While Yassky touted the figures as an early success, the livery and black car industry was unmoved in their opposition to e-hails as an encroachment on pre-arraigned pick ups.

The survey, said Ira Goldstein, executive director of The Black Car Fund and former TLC staffer, “shows it just wasn’t that popular with the public because, as the commissioner said, it’s never going to replace putting your hand up.”

He also criticized the decision for a December vote on approving e-hail apps based on a survey conducted in three months, rather than the year the pilot was supposed to last, missing the busy holiday season.

“Let the new administration decide what’s best,” Goldstein said.

Reps for de Blasio, who reaped more than $350,000 in campaign contributions from the taxi and livery cab industry, according to a Newsday analysis, did not return requests for comment.

TLC spokesman Allan Fromberg said the study gave the TLC a “robust chunk of data.”

“The fact that people are using it and that they sort of learn from it and the people for whom it was a good option stuck with it and used it fairly regularly,” Fromberg said, “was a very heartening thing.”