June 25, 2015 / 10:41 PM / in 2 years

New York City can require uniform taxi fleet - state appeals court

ALBANY, N.Y., June 25 (Reuters) - A New York City program to create a nearly uniform fleet of taxis made by Nissan Motor Co survived a challenge by a taxi owners’ trade group when the state’s highest court ruled in the city’s favor.

The Court of Appeals in a unanimous decision said on Thursday the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission had the authority to tell taxi owners they had to purchase a specially designed vehicle, the Nissan NV200, instead of creating a general set of specifications that could apply to several different cars.

In 2013 the Greater New York Taxi Association sued the city over its "Taxi of Tomorrow" program, which was designed to update the city's medallion fleet of yellow taxis and took effect that year. (on.nyc.gov/1HjJzoK)

A medallion is a license to operate taxis in New York City that can pick up passengers off the street.

Judge Leslie Stein compared the Nissan fleet to the Checker cabs manufactured by a single company that dominated the city’s streets for decades in the 20th century.

“The (commission) was not writing on a clean slate in the sense that it has always regulated the taxi industry as to almost every detail of operation,” Stein wrote for the court.

A state judge in 2013 agreed with the medallion owners that only the City Council could require purchases of the Nissan NV200 after the automaker won a $1 billion 10-year contract. But a mid-level appeals court reversed that decision last year.

Peter Brennan, a lawyer for Nissan, told the Court of Appeals last month that the automaker spent more than $50 million developing the NV200, which it would not have done without a shot at an exclusive contract.

The case is Greater New York Taxi Association v. New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission, New York State Court of Appeals No. 120. (Reporting by Daniel Wiessner; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

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