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San Francisco Muni to Enable Taxi App for Smart Phones

| March 20, 2013
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SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) — The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors voted on Tuesday to work towards a mobile phone application connecting passengers to taxis throughout the city.

Photo: Flickr

Photo: Flickr

The legislation would create an electronic taxi access network that would track data while forming an Internet accessible centralized dispatch service.

The board voted unanimously to amend the transportation code in part to allow the mobile phone service to be implemented, MTA spokesman Paul Rose said.

The legislation stems from the growing competition from other rideshare and car service programs, such as Lyft, Sidecar and Uber that take advantage of the connectivity of smartphone customers.

Support for the city’s proposed taxi application appears split within the cab industry, longtime driver Brad Newsham said.

At today’s board meeting, cab drivers filled board chambers and an overflow room at City Hall, with several voicing concerns about the proposed  legislation.

Newsham is in favor of a smartphone app, calling it a “wonderful thing,” especially if it will improve customer experience.

However he said he understands qualms other drivers have about the agency collecting data through the service, such as the length of rides, pick-up and destination locations, fares and number of passengers of driver’s trips.

“A lot of cab drivers like myself have been clamoring for a dispatch system that would be integrated fleet-wide,” Newsham said.

On the other hand, Newsham said, “I am completely in support of the people who are concerned with privacy invasion.”

He said there is reluctance within the cab industry to give such detailed information about whereabouts and other activity.

Another contingent of cab drivers appear to be neutral on the technological changes, Newsham said.

Across the board, however, cabs are feeling the effects of smartphone-based companies, who take potential customers and do not have the same regulations and fees mandated by the city.

“When you have someone from the outside taking those fares,” Newsham said. “It’s really a problem.”

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Category: Technology, Transportation

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  • jesse

    Why is MUNI creating this app and not the taxi companies?

  • Langer

    How long is it going to take Muni to develop a half assed app. And which taxi drivers will still abort rides after accepting them on the app so drivers will still be a no show… There is no accountability, no uniform standard, the customer in SF is the least important person in SF, drivers have their paper signs saying they still don’t want to accept credit cards… Sooner someone in City Hall actually addresses all issues the better, we have the worst taxi system in the nation and the most expensive

    • Jesse

      This is what the free market system does quite well.

  • http://www.desotogo.com Athan

    What’s not understood by proponents of a centralized app is that three San Francisco taxi companies out of over 30 service about 80% of the dispatched orders. The thought by proponents is that the remaining taxis, which are controlled by the remaining 30 companies will become accessible to the taxi booking public. This is a tremendous misunderstanding of the taxi industry. The vast majority of taxi owners who place their medallions under the control of the 30 under-serving companies aren’t interested in the financial burdens and the accountability associated with providing service to the community. Forcing those taxis to appear on a map on a smart phone doesn’t force them to accept orders or to provide an acceptable level of service. If anything it brings the quality of service down as any taxi driver, regardless of how lousy the service they provide will have access to most of the e-hails. What the MTA needs to do is to reward taxi companies that invest tens of thousands of dollars into infrastructure to support quality taxi service with the ability to develop a client base and then to expand in order to retain that client base. What is the point of a taxi company making these types of strides, if they are not allowed to add taxis to their fleet in order to capitalize on their quality of service?