(last updated August 25th, 2014)
Taxi Cab are drivers for hire. But an opening market can lead to saturation which is why Taxi Commission were introduced in cities to limit the number of cabs in a market place.
In some Northern Communities people don’t own cars and taxi’s are a flat fare from A – B. The community is only so big.
But when you need to get from Akward point A to Akward point B or you have a suitcase or two the good old taxi cab is one of very few options other than walking. In my opinion Taxis are a public service as they are the only one who can provide this specialized service. Unlike web development I can’t just one day start working for myself as a cab driver.
A tale of two cities
I have two stories… one about Vancouver area and one in Seattle, about how the taxi industry is fail us and how technology can improving a failing public service.
Vancouver proper and the Greater Vancouver area is different. Every community in the Vancouver area is served by a different cab company. Depending on the municipality you could be dealing with 15 different cab companies all of which are a little different.
Outside Vancouver’s city core they mostly hang around the malls and skyTrain stations.
A number of times I have had the “pleasure” of taking Bonnie’s taxi a total of five minutes from a SkyTrain station to my brother’s house. It is usually late at night. I usually just missed the bus and I have a bunch of bags.
Gone are the days when a cabbie actually knew where you were going. He hits the meter and then starts typing the address into his GPS. Yes your paying for him to look up the address you just gave him… No mater the address if five minutes away in his “local” area. No matter he drives in this area of the city for a living. He doesn’t know where he is going. On the rare occasion (one in five btw) I actually get a taxi that knows the local neighborhood they rarely WANT to accept credit or debit cards. My reply “If you don’t want to accept it why is it on the side of your car”
For this five-minute ride I’m charged nine dollars and suppose to tip the driver.
This is not what I call a good customer experience.
Yet they can get away with this as they are the only game in the town of Burnaby… Can you say Monopoly? Yet you ask a cab company if they are usually busy and they will say no. I will be dammed to give them any more when only absolutely required because I don’t like the service and in fact I have had better in the middle of Colombia.
In Seattle the old style taxi is still around but they seem to have embraced change more than then there Canadian counter part.
I was in West Seattle on the corner of Fauntleroy Way and California Avenue in West Seattle. If your not familiar with the area, these are two main streets in West Seattle that cross only once. Fairly well-known streets. I had picked up dinner at the local grocery store and just wanted a cab to my relatives house some five minutes away.
I decided to go to Starbucks on the corner to call me a cab. They got me the number to Yellow Cab. The first time I called I was on hold for 15 minutes and then cut off. 2nd time I called I got through and gave them the cross streets. The Starbucks on the Fauntleroy Way and California Avenue in West Seattle. The Response
I don’t know those streets and you could be at any Starbucks in the city call back with a street address… click…
I got the real street address from the Starbucks and called Yellow Cab back. They asked where I was going. So I called back with the exact address. They didn’t know where I was going. I told them it was about five – ten blocks away. Fifteen minutes I was told…
Half an hour later I called back yup still waiting. They will be there shortly… Forty minutes go by and I call again… He is on his way…
Just shy of an hour from the first time I called the cab finally arrives. He takes me to my destination. The driveway starts out dark and narrow but fits any normal size car.
Driver: Is this a dead-end?
Me: No it’s a driveway what does your GPS say.
Driver: Can I just drop you off here.
Me: No, I promise you there is a turn around I am paying for you to drive me to the house.
Driver: Do you have cash?
Me: No Dispatch said you accept Visa.
Driver: But do you have cash?
Me: You get Visa or get nothing your choice.
Time it took to get the cab explain he wasn’t driving into a wilderness (we haven’t left West Seattle), get him to accept the credit card etc… I was completely frustrated. The only reason I took the cab was the two travel bags and three bags of shopping or else I could have walked faster. Also I had been up for 16 hours by this point. I just wanted to get home.
There has to be a better system regardless of the company.
“Transportation Network Companies” or on demand style cab companies.
You call the service with a savvy phone app. Your given an estimated wait time and when a driver has accepted your job. You can see where the driver is and watch him drive up to you.
Your taken to your exact destination via GPS and then your credit card is charged… The App works pretty flawlessly and so is the transportation. Pretty Stress Free actually and there is no debate on payment, no pressure on a tip…
And that’s what people want. They couldn’t care if the service was called Uber, Smoober… Bonnie’s Taxi for all the name matters. If Bonnie’s Taxi in Burnaby operated via Uber’s smart savvy iPhone app? Would it reduce the absolutely horrible rating they have online?
I have been afraid to mention Uber directly as the company hasn’t been without its controversy.
- Surge pricing during a New York storm got absurd.
- Uber drivers kept from driving to keep serge prices high in Miami.
- Uber shutdown by Passenger Transportation Board in Vancouver.
- Uber Accused of Booking Thousands of Fake Rides to Mess with Rival Lyft
While I have used the company and quite enjoyed the trips I have taken. It’s not them that I truly love about the transportation. It’s their savvy savvy app.
But what I wanted to point out is that the digital hiring and payment model that Uber (and others) use works quite well from a users perspective and it’s why hundreds of thousands of people want a similar service.
While I was doing some research for the blog post. I heard about Curb and will give that a try next time I am in need of cab. I’ll post here a how well it works.