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Court rules state can give OK to Uber

A cab in Los Angeles was part of a protest against Uber and similar services.

Associated Press

A cab in Los Angeles was part of a protest against Uber and similar services.

The City of Cambridge has lost its legal challenge to a state decision allowing Uber, maker of a smartphone app that customers use for private transportation, to continue operating, despite complaints from traditional taxi companies.

In August, the Massachusetts Division of Standards ordered Uber to cease operations, contending that its system of determining fares based on GPS location technology was untested. But the division abruptly reversed itself after an outcry from users and others in the local tech sector reached a sympathetic Governor Deval Patrick.

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Cambridge then filed suit in Middlesex Superior Court, contending the state decision allowing Uber to continue operating was “unsupported by substantial evidence, arbitrary and capricious” and “an abuse of discretion.”

The court disagreed. “The City has not demonstrated that the [division’s ruling] is in excess of the Division’s statutory authority, is based on an error in law, is arbitrary and capricious [or] is unsupported by substantial evidence,” Judge Bruce Henry wrote in his June 17 decision.

Founded in 2009, Uber operates in several major cities besides Boston, including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Denver, often drawing complaints from rival taxi services that say it has an unfair advantage because it is not as regulated as cabs are.

In Los Angeles, the Associated Press reported, hundreds of taxi drivers staged a noisy protest against apps such as Uber on Tuesday by honking horns as they circled City Hall. The protest came a day after the Los Angeles transportation department issued cease-and-desist letters to companies such as Uber.

In Greater Boston, Uber currently charges about $33 for a sedan ride from downtown to Harvard Square. A regular taxi ride for this trip would run about $22. Uber also cautions customers that, “At times of intense demand, our rates change over time to keep vehicles available.”

Material from the Associated Press is included in this report.
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