Proposed Regulations Impose Licensing and Cumbersome Tech Requirements On All Taxi Apps
Martin Heikel, Co-Creator of ZabKabTM, Points Out that Proposed Rules Are Discriminatory. ‘They Fail to Distinguish Between Hail-Only Apps and Dispatch Apps’
Says Heikel: ‘Hail No!’ to Proposed Rules
(New York, NY)….. For years, New Yorkers have been able to download and run applications of their choosing on their smartphones or mobile devices – without any interference from the government. But that will change if the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) has its way and implements proposed rules on “e-hail” apps.
The TLC proposed regs would require the TLC to license any e-hail app used to summon a yellow cab, including ZabKabTM, the only taxi app currently in use serving New York City. “The TLC is overreaching by picking and choosing what apps 8.5 million New Yorkers can use,” says Martin Heikel, co-founder of Flatiron Apps, LLC, creators of ZabKab™ Passenger, a free, taxi-hailing app. ”It is unprecedented that a government agency is demanding that it be given the right to approve and license an app rather than letting the public decide which apps they want to use.”
Heikel will speak out against the stifling new TLC rules at today’s public hearing on the proposed regs, which he says will benefit neither the public nor the taxi industry. He points out that each TLC e-hail licensing application requires a $50,000 bond and an annual $500 fee, among other financial requirements.
Heikel also questions why TLC wants to mandate that all licensed apps connect to its T-PEP system, which may be necessary for an app that processes payments, but ZabKab does not. “Forcing our app to connect to the TLC T-PEP system makes no sense when we don’t connect to it today and it provides no benefit to the riding public or cabdrivers.”
Heikel says the TLC is failing to distinguish between a hail-only app such as ZabKab, that can be used to hail yellow cabs and allows passengers to take the first taxi that comes by, vs. e-dispatching apps, in which a driver communicates back to a passenger that only he will come, thus requiring the passenger to be actively engaged in being on the look out for a specific yellow cab among potentially many.
“ZabKab revolutionized the inefficient, hand-in-the-air, taxi hailing model and made it possible for a potential rider and cab driver to ‘see’ each other in real time, and without violating TLC’s long-standing regulations,” Heikel emphasizes. “TLC’s proposed rules place a completely unnecessary burden on us of becoming licensed when our app already works. The regs are just plain out of sync in a tech-savvy city like New York and stifle the very entrepreneurial spirit the Bloomberg administration has worked so hard to foster here.”
ZabKab rolled out on August 8, 2012 with great success, and passengers eagerly downloaded and began to use the app right away. Passengers continue to use the app. Last month, some 15,000 e-hails where made through ZabKab. However, TLC began to send this message daily to cabbies: “Alert: TLC has NOT authorized the use of ANY taxi-related smartphone apps. Use of such apps may result in summons or other actions.” Notes Heikel: “That message frightened drivers and impeded our ability to serve New Yorkers.”
Today, ZabKab respectfully urges the TLC to reconsider its expansion into the policing of technology particularly for true e-hailing apps like ZabKab. “Bureaucracy has no place in our smartphones or mobile devices,” Heikel notes. He adds that 57% of passengers who have a smartphone want the ability to e-hail taxicabs. “Without TLC interference, apps such as ZabKab, developed right here in New York City’s Silicon Alley, can continue to enhance service to the taxi-riding public, improve the profitability of cab drivers, and bring the traditional taxi-hailing process to a new level of efficiency and simplicity for all local residents and visitors to New York City.
About Flatiron Apps, LLC
Flatiron Apps LLC is a technology start-up based in New York City’s Silicon Alley. It was founded in 2012 by Ben Millspaugh, an IT systems development wizard with 10 years of experience as a CTO, and Martin Heikel, a seasoned, communications technology executive. For more information about ZabKab, visit www.zabkab.com.