Yellow taxi owners, drivers sue TLC over Uber

A pedestrian hails a Uber taxi on 5th Avenue in Manhattan. Photo Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang
A pedestrian hails a Uber taxi on 5th Avenue in Manhattan.
A pedestrian hails a Uber taxi on 5th Avenue in Manhattan. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Aaron P. Bernstein

The yellow cab industry, whose business is being targeted by Uber in New York City, is accusing the Taxi and Limousine Commission of allowing its tech-savvy rival to skirt rules.

Uber’s smartphone e-hails are the same street pickups that yellow taxis make but without pricey medallions or sticking to metered fares. Black cars that make up most of Uber’s fleet should be barred from e-hailing from a smartphone, according to the suit filed in state court Tuesday by yellow medallion owners and drivers.

“Uber’s New York business is fundamentally illegal,” said Eric Hecker, an attorney for the plaintiffs, who are members of the Committee for Taxi Safety, taxi apps critics.

“The city should be enforcing the law and stopping Uber from competing with yellow taxis so unfairly,” he added.

The suit further accuses the TLC of letting Uber use an unauthorized “crude and imprecise” GPS system and cut out human dispatchers, which goes against rules for black cars.

TLC spokesman Allan Fromberg said the agency looks forward to a “positive resolution” of the case.

“The TLC consistently welcomes new ways of using technology to improve the passenger experience, and we are confident that we have always done so within the agency’s legal authority,” he said.

The TLC was not, however, accused of treating Lyft — a smaller Uber rival that bought a black car base and signed agreements with 14 other bases to operate here — in a similar way.

Tweeps Phillips Woods, executive director of the Committee for Taxi Safety, referred a request for comment to the plaintiffs’ attorney. An Uber spokesman did not return a request for comment.

Revenue from medallion sales and the pool of available drivers has dwindled due to Uber’s popularity and its effort to compete directly with traditional yellow cabs.

“Uber is siphoning tens of millions of dollars out of the pockets of yellow medallion owners and drivers who are following the rules,” Hecker said.