E-hail app to order yellow cabs in NYC blocked by judge

NEW YORK Thu Mar 7, 2013 7:16pm EST

New York City yellow taxi cabs pass by the Ripley's Believe It or Not! museum in Times Square, New York February 15, 2013. Picture taken February 15, 2013. REUTERS/Zoran Milich

New York City yellow taxi cabs pass by the Ripley's Believe It or Not! museum in Times Square, New York February 15, 2013. Picture taken February 15, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Zoran Milich

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - A pilot program that would allow people in New York City to hail yellow cabs using a smartphone app was blocked by a judge on Thursday, handing a victory to private car companies that have said the program threatens their business.

Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Carol Huff granted a request from the livery companies to freeze the new "e-hail" program that had been scheduled to begin as early as Friday.

The order will be in effect until at least March 18, when the two sides are due to return to court to argue the merits of a lawsuit brought by the livery companies against the city.

The pilot program would allow people to use a phone application to request a yellow cab ride. Taxi drivers would be able to receive such requests and confirm pickup locations.

Private car companies rely on prearranged pickups. Under New York's two-prong cab system, yellow cabs handle street hails but cannot accept phone pickups; livery cars do the opposite.

The program would be an option for New Yorkers accustomed to standing in the street and flagging down the city's approximately 13,000 yellow cabs. E-hail apps like Uber and Hailo have become popular in other cities.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)

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