Monday, September 22, 2014

Female-only taxi service hits bumps 

n all-female taxi service in New York has postponed its launch due to excess passenger demand. Originally slated to start rolling on September 16, SheRides is still trying to recruit enough female drivers to pick up women in need of a lift.

Among the women the company is trying to attract — both as drivers (who will sport hot pink pashmina scarves) and passengers — are religious Jewish and Muslim women who do not feel comfortable being in a taxi or limousine with the opposite sex.

According to The New York Times, women currently make up only five percent of all taxi and limo drivers in New York.

Fernando Mateo, president of the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers, an industry group representing 30,000 taxi and livery drivers, thinks the female-only app-based operation makes sense.

“The overwhelming majority of cabbies are Muslim,” he told The New York Daily News. “Now they will be able to join their husbands and make money under the terms and conditions that SheRides has.”

Mateo’s wife, Stella Mateo, is founder of SheRides.

Not everyone is thrilled about this service devoted exclusively to women. Some legal experts believe that SheRides’ female-only service violates New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission’s regulations, as well as city, state and federal laws barring gender discrimination.

“Obviously, an app that proposes to pick up one individual over another based on their sexual orientation, race or gender, is repugnant to everything we stand for. I don’t see how they would clear the regulatory hurdle,” TLC member Frank Carone, a lawyer, was quoted as saying.

Some Jewish Orthodox women are on board with SheRides’ concept, while others wonder whether there is really such a great need for female-only cabs.

“I actually take car service quite a bit and this has never been an issue for me… But if it fills a need for certain customers and is another employment opportunity for women I think it’s great,” says Rachel Abrahams.

Mimi Hecht, a Hasidic fashion designer, has never heard of Orthodox women not being allowed to have day-to-day interactions with men, such as riding in a taxi with a male driver.

“It’s the non-day-to-day interactions that aren’t allowed,” she said.

Allison Josephs, who explains Orthodox Judaism to the world through her Jew in the City videos, thinks that the gender of the cab driver may be more of an issue at night than during the day. She also suspects that it’s also more of a matter of safety than religious prohibition.

“If it’s daytime, in a busy area, it’s not a problem for anyone to ride with the opposite sex. However, if it’s the middle of the night and in the middle of nowhere, it could possibly be a problem,” she says.

“And I think most women, for safety reasons, might also feel uncomfortable being driven in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere by a strange man,” says Josephs.


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