Top NY Court Backs NYC Livery Street Pickup Rights

ALBANY (AP) -

Two plans to add options for New York City taxi seekers got green lights from courts Thursday. The state’s highest court approved allowing livery cab drivers to pick up passengers who hail them on streets in much of the city, while another court said smartphone apps could be used to summon yellow cabs, for now.

The orders both represent victories — if provisional, in the “e-hail” apps case — for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who said they would help cab riders. But the measures have met opposition in the taxi industry. Livery car owners oppose the apps, while yellow cab owners didn’t want to let car services pick up street hails.

The latter case involved a 2012 state law, backed by Bloomberg, that ends yellow cabs’ exclusive right to pick up street hails. The Court of Appeals in Albany rejected claims by yellow cab owners and taxi lenders that the law is unconstitutional.

“With this decision, we can finally bring safe, reliable taxi service to the four and a half boroughs that don’t currently have it,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “That’s a victory for everyone who lives in, works in or visits New York City.”

The court, ruling unanimously, concluded that the law didn’t violate the city’s state constitutional authority to manage its own affairs because of an exception in cases where the state has “substantial interest.”

“This is not a purely local issue. Millions of people from within and without the state visit the city annually,” Judge Eugene Pigott Jr. wrote. “Efficient transportation services in the state’s largest city and international center of commerce is important to the entire state. The act plainly furthers all of these significant goals.”

Meanwhile, the state Supreme Court’s Appellate Division, First Department, lifted a temporary ban on the “e-hail” service for yellow cabs. It now can resume while the overall appeal case plays out.

Uber Technologies has already launched e-hail service in New York. Taxi Magic said it planned to start service in the coming weeks.

“Feel free to hail a yellow taxi if it’s in your neighborhood or you’re out in Manhattan,” the city said in a release. “Yellow taxis can still pick up passengers anywhere in the city and are required to take you anywhere in NYC.”