A Judge Rejected Cambridge’s Lawsuit Against Uber

The city sued after the state reversed a decision to ban the app.

A judge ruled against Cambridge in the city’s court battle with Uber, the company that allows users to hail and pay for taxis and black cars with a smartphone app. A Massachusetts state agency ordered Uber to shut down operations last August because it calculated fares based on a GPS, but after Uber’s customers protested loudly, Gov. Deval Patrick had the agency reverse its decision. Cambridge then filed a lasuit arguing that the state’s reversal was “unsupported by substantial evidence, arbitrary and capricious” and “an abuse of discretion.”

A civil court rejected the argument in a ruling today. “The Division acted within its statutory and regulatory authority in issuing the Modified Decision and granting provisional approval to Uber to use the GPS System pending the outcome of the NIST study.”

What’s this mean for you? Well, practically speaking, it means you can keep using Uber (and similar apps like Hailo) to take taxis, black cars, and black SUVs (and now rides in non-commercial vehicles, too). People generally enjoy Uber’s services, so this is nice. More broadly, Uber and its allies cast this battle and others like it as a clash between the plodding, entrenched government bureaucracy and sexy, life-improving innovators. If you accept that framing, this is also a victory for progress. Barbara Anthony, Undersecretary of Consumer and Business Regulations for the state, gave the Boston Globe a statement in that vein. “This ruling affirms that our regulatory structure can adapt to changing technologies,” she said.

However, if you don’t accept that framing and you think regulations were put in place for a reason and that Uber is getting special treatment (as many cab companies argue) you might not find this all so sunny. As BostInno’s Walt Frick writes, even as he applauds the decision, “taxi regulation needs to be modernized, and applied equally both to services like Uber and to existing taxis.”

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  • Dave Sutton

    Local communities throughout America have always monitored
    their own taxi environment. They do this because they’ve learned through harsh experience that there’s a need to protect their citizens/passengers in the taxi environment. Passengers are vulnerable to getting ripped off. Would-be passengers in poorer neighborhoods are vulnerable to not getting picked up. Every passenger is vulnerable to riding without being protected by appropriate insurance.

    Cambridge wasn’t trying to prevent Uber from doing business. Cambridge was trying to protect its citizens by designating Uber illegal because the company refuses to submit to any regulation or oversight.

    Hopefully, there will be another judge to come along behind this one and assert Cambridge’s right to protect its own citizens in the taxi environment.