Boston Taxi Owner Suit Latest Legal Salvo in Rideshare Wars

By and | January 20, 2015

Taxi owners accused Boston officials of violating their constitutional rights by permitting Uber Technologies Inc. and other ride-sharing services to operate on city streets.

The cabbies, in a lawsuit filed last Friday by the Boston Taxi Owners Association, fault the city for imposing regulatory burdens on them without requiring the same of the ride sharing services with whom they compete for passengers. The case follows one against Chicago last year, as Uber, Lyft Inc. and other services face new obstacles worldwide.

The European Union’s top court on Jan. 14 ruled that London’s iconic black cabs have an exclusive right to share some traffic lanes with buses. This month, China’s Ministry of Transportation banned private cars from offering unlicensed taxi service via mobile-phone apps.

Boston and many other cities impose restraints on cab owners such as requiring them to buy operating licenses known as medallions, which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. They are also limited to operating only-approved vehicles and charging only city-authorized fares.

Boston cab owners are seeking a court order barring new rules that would exempt ride-sharing services from some of the requirements for cab drivers and force city and state agencies to enforce existing regulations against against them.

‘Two-Tiered System’

The proposed changes, if approved, will codify “an irrational, two-tiered system” enabling ride-sharing services to run with little oversight “while continuing to subject taxicab medallion owners and licensed drivers to stringent, economically oppressive regulations,” according to the complaint in Boston federal court.

Uber, after alleged rapes of passengers in Boston and India, has been sued by officials in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland, Oregon, over claims it makes false assurances about driver background checks or violates other local laws. A judge in Spain banned it from operating there, and Rio de Janeiro declared it illegal. The Netherlands halted ride-sharing service UberPop.

“The city of Boston has not yet seen the complaint, but our legal team will review it upon receipt,” Melina Schuler, a spokeswoman for the city, said in an e-mail.

Paige Thelen, a spokeswoman for San Francisco-based Lyft, didn’t immediately respond to phone and e-mail messages seeking comment on the lawsuit.

Sharing Data

The Boston lawsuit comes just three days after San Francisco-based Uber announced its intent to share ride data with the city.

“Beyond safe, reliable rides, Uber is helping to create jobs, reduce DUI rates, increase access to under-served neighborhoods, and reduce taxi-related crimes,” a company spokeswoman, Taylor Bennett, said in an e-mailed statement. “Massachusetts has formally recognized ride-sharing as a new transportation alternative, establishing clear, uniform rules for ride-sharing across the entire Commonwealth.”

The case is Boston Taxi Owners Association Inc. v. City of Boston, 15-cv-10100, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).

Related Articles:
New York City Council Members Take Aim at Uber Surge Pricing
Uber Called ‘Criminal Enterprise’ by Philadelphia Cab Owners
Lyft Gets Pennsylvania Regulatory Nod, Except in Philadelphia
USAA to Offer Pilot Ridesharing Coverage in Colorado
Uber Faces Challenge with Driver Screening Internationally

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