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This Women-Only Uber Clone May Be a Good Idea, But It's Illegal

New York City's Taxi and Limousine Commission says it's illegal for car services to refuse rides.
September 8, 2014, 8:45pm
Image: Nestor Lacle/Flickr

A soon-to-be-launched New York City car service that claims it will exclusively match women riders with women drivers is getting a lot of buzz—unfortunately, it looks like the service will be illegal under the city's service refusal rules, according to the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission.

SheTaxis, would basically be an Uber clone that employs only female drivers, the New York Times reported. Male cab drivers have been accused and convicted of assaulting, even raping female patrons—one particularly terrifying incident is currently making headlines, as a livery cab driver assaulted a mother in front of her children. And at least three Uber drivers have been accused of sexual assault. Considering these incidents of violence against women riders and the many more that aren't reported, as well as the more common harassment and inappropriate conversation, it's perhaps a sound business model.

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But the implementation of it might be a little trickier: New York City's TLC prohibits taxi drivers from refusing service to anyone, except in very specific, limited circumstances (and doing so on a gender-related basis isn't one of them).

"Regardless of their marketing plan, they will be subjected to the same requirements as yellow cabs prohibiting service refusal," a spokesperson for the TLC told me in an email.

HOPEFULLY, THIS WILL ALL GO OFF WITHOUT A HITCH. BUT IT'S GOING TO REQUIRE THAT MEN NOT BE JERKS ABOUT IT

That's not to say that the TLC is definitely going to prevent the service from launching (the spokesperson wouldn't comment further), and it doesn't mean the service won't be successful. Meera Joshi, chairwoman of the TLC, wouldn't tip her hand about what the commission would do in a quote given to the New York Times, suggesting that the industry in New York "continues to get more and more specialized in terms of the products and services it offers."

What's going to matter, in the end, is how strict SheTaxi plans on being: It's totally legal to market specifically to women. But things get trickier, legally, if SheTaxi plans to flat-out refuse to drive men around. Throughout the country, there are hundreds of women-only gyms that operate in this way, more or less without incident. Most of those gyms don't technically prohibit men, but there's a sort of understanding that men won't join.

In all likelihood, that's what's will (and should) happen here. With Uber, Lyft, yellow taxis, and a whole bunch of other car services, there's no lack of taxi options for anyone in the city; a new entry is only going to increase the supply, not make it harder for men to catch a lift.

Still, it's not too hard to see SheTaxi running into some sort of trouble somewhere down the line (I reached out to the app's founder, Stella Mateo, but haven't heard back yet). Maybe, hopefully, this will all go off without a hitch. But it's going to require that men not be jerks about it.