Calling All Taxis

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In case you haven’t heard, NYC’s Taxi and Limousine Commission has agreed to allow New Yorkers to hail a cab right from their smartphones. This has been an on-and-off service for over a year. Just when app maker Uber Technologies was ready to launch, the Mayor’s office pulled the deal because they didn’t want taxi drivers texting while behind the wheel. I am not sure how all of this got reversed, but now the T&L Commission has agreed to try the service for a certain period of time. It starts in February.

Über is an on-demand car service that allows anyone to request a ride via mobile app, text message, or the web. Drivers arrive curbside in just minutes, you can track the arrival of your ride on your iPhone or Android, credit card only, and you’ll receive a text message when the driver arrives.

Über is located in San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Denver, Sydney, Chicago, Washington DC, Toronto, San Diego, and Dallas.

People who download the app can now use their smartphone to retrieve a cab right where they are standing. NYC’s TLC’s chairman, David Yassky, has approved the proposed short term plan only with strict “geographical” stipulations. For example, Manhattan residents can only summon a taxi if it is within a .5 mile radius from their location. However, elsewhere the distance between a cab and the customer is increased to a maximum of 1.5 miles.

Anyone who is a regular in NYC knows how difficult it can sometimes be to hail a cab, which is what designers had in mind when they created this app. After downloading the app, you simply type in your anticipated pickup location. After your location is recognized, you can request what type of car you want to be picked up in, a taxi, an SUV, a black car, or an exclusive UBERx car. Users must type their credit card information into the app, as the service automatically records the charge with the tip included, and sends a receipt of your bill to your email account as well as to your personal Uber app once the ride is over. Not only does the app then tell you the minimum fare, maximum number of people that can fit in the car, and the estimated time of arrival, but it also tells you who your driver will be, accompanied by his picture, customer ratings, and a contact number just in case you need to call. The best part about this app is its accessibility. It is free to download and use, except for the taxi fare of course.

I was anxious to hear what New Yorkers had to say about hailing a cab via an app, so I took to the streets to ask both drivers and passengers what they thought. I questioned six drivers over the last three days and 10 frequent taxi riders. The consensus is that way down the road this will become standard once everyone gets used to it. For right now this is an option. You can still hail a cab from the curb. It has been most compared to the resistance to use credit cards in taxis. At first everyone hated it because it took passengers much longer to leave the taxi once they reached their destination. Now, some find it faster than paying in cash. Others are concerned about waiting for taxis on the side of a road and they don’t show. All of the concerns will be ironed out during the experiment.

Personally, I would like Uber to find a way to tell taxi drivers the quickest way to get to a destination. Every cab I get takes the longest way. I love when the drivers get defensive with me when I try to tell them not to go west when we have to go east. We usually get into a heated debate and then end up joking with each other by the end of the trip. It is all a part of the New York experience.

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