The news: A ladies-only taxi service has arrived.
On Sept. 16, a female-only livery service will hit New York City, Long Island and Westchester County. It's called SheTaxi (though in New York City, restrictions on using the word "taxi" mean it will be called SheRides), and users will be able to access an Uber-like app to order a female-driven taxi to her location.
Founder Stella Mateo developed the app to "provide safe transportation for women who feel uncomfortable being chauffeured around by strange men (men drive 95% of cabs and livery cars in NYC)," New York Magazine reports.
There's a potentially a huge, untapped pool or female drivers for SheTaxi to draw from. The New York Times notes that "of New York City's 59,999 for-hire drivers of livery cars, green cabs, limousines and luxury sedans, only 2,952 of them, or 5%, are women, according to city data. Even fewer women drive yellow cabs: 574 out of 51,874 drivers, or 1%."
Sounds like a great idea, right? SheTaxis can easily and conveniently provide a safe space for women worried about strange male drivers, while simultaneously tapping an under-utilized pool of drivers. But there's a problem.
It's illegal. Or, more, specifically, it's discriminatory. According to municipal law, livery or cab companies operating within New York City cannot refuse rides to passengers because of their gender. "A Taxi & Limousine Commission official said the new car service would be subject to the same rules as yellow cabs, which are prohibited from refusing service to customers based on factors such as gender," NBC News reported.
In theory, SheTaxi could be a smart and utilitarian service. Mateo's husband, Fernando, "is the founder of the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers, an industry group representing 30,000 taxi and livery drivers," reported the New York Times. It makes sense then that Mateo would be interested in this industry, but it's fairly surprising that their entire business model is predicated on an idea that might not even be allowed (in New York City at least, though many other cities have similar regulations in place).
Time will tell how New York deals with a service that seems to directly fly in the face of its taxi rules. SheTaxis currently has six drivers on staff and has recruited 50 more, but Mateo hopes to eventually expand SheTaxi to other cities, including Chicago and Miami. India already boasts its own women-only taxi fleet, so it was just a matter of time before the U.S. jumped on the bandwagon. New York may be the first U.S. city to try the service out, but it mostly likely will not be the last.