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Uber lands deal to list all NYC taxis on ride-hail app

Recently hindered by driver shortages and a spike in pandemic food-delivery orders, Uber has teamed up with its former rivals, the New York City medallion taxis, to let riders flag traditional cabs with their phones instead of a wave.

MANHATTAN (CN) — Your Uber is coming, and it's a yellow cab, license plate T...

Once bitter rivals in a schism of Big Apple car transportation, Uber and the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission inked a deal Thursday to ferry app users as one.

The San Francisco-headquartered company plans to list taxis from all five boroughs on its app, announcing a merger of its software with that of Arro and Curb — the two technology partners previously licensed by the city to coordinate its taxi business.

The merged app will go into effect in beta this spring and roll out to the general public this summer.

In addition to Uber users now getting access to thousands of yellow taxis, these taxi drivers will see Uber-originated fares on the monitors that they already use to service e-hails from the Arro app created by Creative Mobile Technologies.

"This is a real win for drivers — no longer do they have to worry about finding a fare during off peak times or getting a street hail back to Manhattan when in the outerboroughs," Guy Peterson, director of business development for Uber, said in press release. "And this is a real win for riders who will now have access to thousands of yellow taxis in the Uber app."

Representatives for the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission praised the deal as well. “We are always interested in innovative tools that can expand economic opportunities for taxi drivers," TLC Acting Commissioner Ryan Wanttaja said in a statement Thursday. "We are excited about any proposal to more easily connect passengers with taxis and look forward to learning more about this agreement between Uber and the taxi apps and ensuring it complies with TLC rules.”

Creative Mobile Technologies offers credit card services, content and advertising, data services, and e-hailing for New York’s taxi cabs through its app, Arro, which was launched in 2015 to compete with Uber’s dominating business model.

“Uber has a long history of partnering with the taxi industry to provide drivers with more ways to earn and riders with another transportation option,” Andrew MacDonald, senior vice president of mobility and business operations, said Thursday. “Our partnerships with taxis look different around the world, and we’re excited to team up with taxi software companies CMT and Curb, which will benefit taxi drivers and all New Yorkers.”

Putting a damper on the enthusiasm, however, is the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, a 25,000-member strong union that represents the full prism of New York City professional drivers whether their rides are traditional yellow cabs, green for the boroughs, private black cars or app-dispatched.

“The companies that tore up this industry need this more than the drivers do. Drivers can hold out on 1- 2 more fares but cannot settle for a biz model that underpays drivers, fires them at will & guts full-time work,” the alliance tweeted Thursday.

“So it's time to negotiate,” it added.

Later Thursday, the union demanded that the TLC adjust driver-payment rates under the new program to pay drivers either 85% of what the passenger pays or 100% of the TLC-regulated rates, whichever is higher.

"If Uber and Curb think they can slide in with a payment structure that's broken for Uber drivers and piece it together on the backs of yellow cab drivers, they're in for a sobering surprise," the union said in response to the Uber deal. "Neither company will grow ridership without working out terms that work for drivers. We know who's in the driver's seat. And spoiler alert, it's not a venture capitalist."

Courthouse News spoke Thursday afternoon to James Parrott, who co-authored the TLC study that led to the implementation of the city's driver-pay standard. He said the deal will be a positive step if it levels up passenger fares and what both app and medallion drivers are paid.

"This action will force the TLC (and the app companies) to ensure that both medallion and app drivers are compensated for higher fuel and other expenses. While that wasn't what Uber announced, that is likely to be the result," said Parrott, who is director of economic and fiscal policies at The New School’s Center for New York City Affairs. "Uber's action could be a step forward since there is so much overlap in the two services, and because in the past Uber was intent on putting yellow taxis out of business. Speculative capital has been subsidizing app fares and disrupting the lives of medallion owner drivers for too long."

By law, there are 13,587 taxis in New York City, and each taxi must have a medallion affixed to it. Medallions are auctioned by the city and are transferrable on the open market by licensed brokers.

Last year, New York City taxi cab drivers sued the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission for $2.5 billion, saying they paid artificially inflated prices for their taxi medallions, collectively losing hundreds of millions as a result.

Last month, newly elected Mayor Eric Adams, who has championed New York City as a home for tech companies, announced a  5% pay increase for pay standards for drivers for Uber and Lyft.

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