Taxi officials studying taxi app, passenger feedback

SF Public Press
 — Feb 6 2012 - 6:47pm

Finding a cab in the city may soon get easier. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation, which oversees taxi services in the city, is working on developing an application to get a cab.

The app is one of several solutions being examined to improve taxi service in the city. Supervisor Scott Wiener has called on officials at the transit agency to provide a layout on how the transit agency plans to deal with taxi complaints such as not being able to get a cab in certain neighborhoods.

This is a critical component in having a true transit-first city,” said Wiener. He described taxi service as “not adequate” and said residents dismiss the option of getting cab because they can never get one.

An app is already available for iPhone users called Cabulous, which was developed through the Best Buy entrepreneurship program in 2008. App users can find the closest cab using GPS technology and “hail” the cab to come pick them up. The driver has two minutes to accept the passenger. If the driver declines, app users can call upon another cab that is available on a city map.

Cabulous has partnered with seven cab companies, but the transit agency is looking to create a centralized app. The transit agency lists 32 taxicab companies on its website.

Christiane Hayashi, deputy director of taxi services,said the agency is considering participating in a hackathon later this month with the California College of the Arts in developing the app, as suggested by the mayor's office.

Besides the app, Hayashi said the agency will begin initiating a comprehensive survey to talk with taxi riders and stakeholders on service in the city.

Hara Associates, the contractor chosen to help with the survey, will also advise the transit agency on establishing performance measures, according to Hayashi.

Too few cabs in the city has been a complaint during peak times, usually on the weekends or during major city events. Hyashi said the transit agency is planning to hand out 50 part-time single taxi permits to drivers just to work during those peak times. The permits were approved last year by the transit agency's board of directors.

This was the first hearing at the board's Land Use and Economic Development Committee to find out what the transit agency is doing to improve taxi service. Wiener has requested quarterly updates from Hayashi for future hearings.

Comments

There were a handful of taxi drivers who attended this hearing today. I would have to commend Chris Hayashi on her work in the taxi industry over the couple years. We have a long way to go however.

I worked as a taxi driver for several years until a terrible accident has made it impossible for me to drive anymore. The current dispatching system does not work. Usually people calling to ask for a cab get a rude obnoxious person called a dispatcher when they call. A centralized dispatch will allow people to hail a cab without having to speak to anyone. I really liked Cabulous when I was driving. I would not have to hear the harassing, racist and homophobic comments over the airways from the dispatchers. Cab drivers have to tip these dispatchers in order to get good service over the radio, the drivers are customers of the cab companies and the passengers are technically not customers of the cab companies but of the drivers. With the current system there is no incentive for a dispatcher or cab company to get a passenger a cab. This misnomer needs to be realized by patrons of cabs. I use to find it amazing when a passenger would state "you have a great dispatcher, he always gets me a cab". People it is not the dispatcher who actually gets you the cab, it is the driver who is on your area at the time a call comes over the radio that gets you a cab. MTA this is a great service and an awesome move toward a centralized dispatch that is long over due. Thank you for your efforts on this matter.