NYC Taxi Commissioner Seeking Compromise on Taxi Apps

A blog about business and economics.
Dec. 12 2012 4:22 PM

NYC Taxi Commissioner Seeking Compromise on Taxi Apps

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Taxis drive past a double decker bus set up as a pop-up store to buy the reissue of the Beatles’ original albums on vinyl, on a 12-inch LP format in New York, November 13, 2012.

Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images

Dana Rubinstein writes that New York City Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky is somewhat softening his early embrace of the idea of cab-hailing apps in favor of a pilot program:

A pilot is "better than doing it as a permanent rule," Yassky said this afternoon.
"People have legitimate concerns about how it's going to affect their businesses," said Yassky, of taxi apps, which would have allowed New Yorkers to hail cabs by tapping their iPhones and Androids, rather than by simply waving their hands in the air. "And if some people's fears turn out to be true, then the government should revisit it. A pilot is a way to ensure the city revisits it."
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Politics is politics and half-measures are sometimes part of politics, but as I suspect Yassky knows this is bad reasoning. The goal of transportation policy should be to make it safe and convenient for people to get around the city, not to preserve the economic value of people's existing businesses. Useful technological changes are often bad for specific companies. Digital photography has been terrible for film manufacturers, and smartphones destroyed the young point-and-shoot camera industry. But "this new technology is going to be bad for my business" is just about the worst possible rationale for a new regulation.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

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