City Asks Taxi Regulator to Create Universal E-hail App

December 9, 2014 Updated: December 9, 2014

Since last May, people have had the choice of hailing a cab by extending their hand or through their smartphones, and the traditional street hail overwhelmingly remains the preferred method.

But with competition from black car services through tech companies like Uber and Lyft, Council member Ben Kallos said it’s time the city created its own app for yellow cabs.

“New Yorkers should be able to get where they need to go in a New York minute in their most trusted transportation source,” Kallos said. This week, Kallos proposed a bill that would require the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) to create or contract out the making of a city-branded e-hail app.

The key is to create a centralized system with the entirety of the 13,000-plus yellow cabs and 6,000 green cabs (street hail liveries) connected, according to Kallos.

Unpopular E-hails?

There are currently five companies allowed to create e-hail apps under the current pilot program. One company, Hailo, pulled out of the North American market earlier this year, citing too much competition. Curb, another company, rebranded itself in the New York market to target liveries rather than taxis, because it had been too difficult to get the yellow cabs to sign on.

Under the new bill, drivers would still be opting in to accept e-hails, but Kallos said he believed the convenience of a universal app would have most drivers using it.

Rather than several different apps, third-party e-hail apps would use the same system, he explains, which means only one interface for the drivers, and every third-party app would get access to any driver who chooses to opt-in.

The TLC publishes quarterly e-hail reports, which show that e-hails currently make up about 0.37 percent of all cab hails. Average trips have decreased from last year and last quarter.

They help to serve passengers who are just outside central Manhattan, where the majority of cabs cruise, though fulfillment rates are lower in further out areas. The average e-hail fulfillment rate is 37 percent.


The new bill includes a few measures aimed to promote usage of yellow cabs.

It would require the TLC to promote the app in taxis through at least 30-second ads before it launches. Drivers would all be offered training on how to use these apps.

Third party apps like Uber, which is part of the e-hail program, would also be prohibited from influencing a passenger attempting an e-hail to use a black car or livery service in the app.