City to propose universal taxi app amid medallion crisis

A City Council task force is recommending an app to save taxi medallion owners.

A City Council task force wants to help save taxi medallion owners who are underwater.

A City Council task force wants to help save taxi medallion owners who are underwater. cla78/Shutterstock

Ride-hailing apps may not have rung the taxi industry’s death knell all on their own – as it turns out, risky lending practices played a leading role – but New York City is turning to apps as part of its plan to rescue taxi medallion owners deep in debt.

Crain’s New York Business reported Monday that the City Council task force charged with addressing the taxi medallion loan crisis will recommend a “universal” taxi app that would help taxis compete with the model of apps like Uber and Lyft.

The recommendation is part of the task force’s report, expected to be released later this week, which will also make recommendations for helping to rescue medallion owners who are underwater. City Councilman Stephen Levin said one approach might involve some sort of public-private partnership with the city and investors to partially forgive loans.

A ride-hail app for taxis could presumably allow making hailing a taxi as easy as hailing an Uber or Lyft, but it wouldn’t be the first time an app has tried to be Uber or Lyft for the taxi industry. Apps like Hailo, Arro, and Curb have offered their own taxi ride-hail options, but none have caught on to compete with Uber and Lyft.

Meanwhile, the City Council is working on efforts to target those ride-hail giants by limiting how long ride-hail drivers can cruise without passengers south of 96th Street in Manhattan. A previous attempt by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to institute a cap on cruising was blocked late last year by a state Supreme Court judge, who called it “arbitrary and capricious.”

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