NYC Officials to Discuss Regulations, Pricing for Uber

New York is waging a turf war on wheels.

About 13,000 yellow cabs hailed with a hand raised in the air are now competing with hundreds of app-driven private black cars summoned by tapping a smartphone screen.

The urban faceoff will reach fever pitch Monday morning.

That's when City Council members will grill representatives of the popular Uber service that operates globally -- from New York and London to New Delhi and even China.

When first offered in New York in 2012, Uber rides were less expensive than car services booked by phone or online.

Riders first register with a credit card via cellphone, which later is used to signal the nearest car in any neighborhood using the GPS system. Drivers recognize waiting passengers when a call comes in with a previously fed client photo.

But now, City Council members are challenging the legality of what they say are Uber's surging prices.

Company spokeswoman Natalia Montalvo responded to the charge by saying: "Dynamic pricing ensures Uber remains a reliable ride in communities during times of peak demand." That's when market supply and demand can affect the price.

She said users must approve any price before a trip.

Ydanis Rodriquz, chairman of the council's transportation committee, says surge pricing takes advantage of customers when they're in a traffic crunch.

"App-based technology has created confusion regarding dispatching and accountability," he says. 

Council members say Uber also is violating city codes regulating both the yellow taxi fleet and other black car services. While the issue is resolved, city officials last week temporarily shut down five of Uber's six New York bases for allegedly refusing to submit transit records.

Last week, Uber also was banned in Madrid, Spain.

Until recently in New York, "catching a cab" was simple, though often requiring some hustling in traffic or bad weather.

The word "Taxi!" has practically become a refrain for a common Manhattan sight: passengers racing breathlessly down a street to catch a ride before someone else does. Sometimes customers rush to be first opening the doors of available cabs, coming face to face in the back seat.

That scene is avoided with the silent, high-tech hails for the novelty rides that are now fueling shock waves in the city's taxi industry.

Drivers and owners of taxis say Uber and other similar, smaller companies are taking a bite out of their income -- while setting their own rules.

On Monday, council members are expected to hear from Taxi & Limousine Commissioner Meera Joshi, plus executives of several private car companies.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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