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Cambridge Taxi Drivers and Owners Association, Inc. v. City of Cambridge

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

January 26, 2017

Cambridge Taxi Drivers and Owners Association, Inc. Plaintiff,
v.
City of Cambridge, Nicole Murati Ferrer, E. Denise Simmons, Christopher Burke and Richard Rossi Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          Nathaniel M. Gorton United States District Judge.

         This case involves a dispute between Cambridge Taxi Drivers and Owners Association, Inc. (“plaintiff”) and the City of Cambridge, Cambridge Mayor E. Denise Simmons, the Chair of the Cambridge License Commission, Nicole Murati Ferrer, Cambridge Police Commissioner Christopher Burke and Cambridge City Manager Richard Rossi (collectively, “defendants” or “the City”). The plaintiff protests the City's decision not to apply the same regulatory framework to transportation network companies (“TNCs”) as it currently applies to taxicabs.

         Plaintiff has filed a motion for a preliminary injunction and defendants have responded with a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. For the following reasons, plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction will be denied and defendants' motion to dismiss will be allowed.

         I. Background

         A. City Regulation of the Taxi Industry

         Pursuant to state statute, the taxicab industry in the City of Cambridge (“the City” or “Cambridge”) is regulated by the Cambridge License Commission (“the Commission”). In exercising that authority, the Commission requires anyone who drives a taxicab to possess a license known as a “taxicab medallion.” The City has capped the number of medallions at 257.

         The City has promulgated a comprehensive set of so called Taxicab Rules and Regulations (“Taxicab Regulations”). Those regulations define a taxicab as

[a] motor vehicle licensed and approved by the License Commission to carry passengers and articles, and is authorized to accept street hails from persons in the street.

         The Taxicab Regulations require all taxicab operators, inter alia, to possess a medallion, meet a minimum age requirement, pay certain taxes and supply their contact information to the Commission. The Taxicab Regulations also describe the approved manner in which a taxicab in the City can engage customers.

         Beginning in 2012, companies such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar began operations in Boston and surrounding communities. The cellular phone, app-based, for-hire transportation services have quickly gained popularity and serve as an alternative to traditional taxicab or livery services. The new companies rely, to varying degrees, on drivers who provide pre-arranged transportation services in their own private vehicles.

         The City of Cambridge has neither issued regulations specifically targeted at such companies nor enforced the Taxicab Regulations against them.

         B. State Regulation of TNCs

         In July, 2016, the Massachusetts General Court enacted and the Governor of Massachusetts signed into law a comprehensive statute, M.G.L. ch. 159A½ (“the Act”), regulating TNCs at the state level.

         The Act defines a TNC as

a corporation, partnership, sole proprietorship or other entity that uses a digital network to connect riders to drivers to pre-arrange and provide transportation.

Id. § 1. The Act also delegates regulation of TNCs to a new state “division” within the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities. Id. § 2. That division implements insurance requirements, monitors fare estimates, ensures the safety and annual inspection of TNC vehicles and monitors the accommodation of riders with special needs. Id. The division also issues permits, which must be annually renewed, to TNCs and it has the power to conduct hearings and impose penalties on TNCs which are noncompliant with the Act. Id. §§ 3, 6.

         Moreover, the Act ostensibly removes TNCs from local regulation. Section 10 provides, in part:

[N]o municipality or other local or state entity, except the Massachusetts Port Authority . . . may subject a [TNC] to the municipality's or other local or state entity's rate or other requirements . . . .

M.G.L. ch. 159A½, § 10. The Act does not, however, prevent municipalities from regulating “traffic flow and traffic patterns to ensure public safety and convenience.” Id.

         C. Procedural History

         In June, 2016, plaintiff filed a five-count complaint, in which they allege substantive claims for violations of the Takings Clause (Count IV) and “due process/equal protection” provisions (Count V) of the United States Constitution.[1] So-called Counts I (declaratory judgment), II (injunctive relief) and III (damages) simply describe plaintiffs' requested relief. On the same day, plaintiff also filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to direct defendants to regulate TNCs in accordance with the local taxicab regulations.[2]

         Defendants responded in August, 2016, with a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Both pending motions ...


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