Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Electronic Taxi Access

Kudos to Director Christiane Hayashi. For over thirty years cab drivers have wanted a universal dispatching system in San Francisco. Thanks to the Director, this dream is finally being realized.

Of course such a system was really impossible thirty years ago because the technology for it didn't exist. And, while said technology has existed for the last five years or so (Remember Open Taxi Access?), the political landscape was not ready for such a venture. To spell this out in plain English - the good ol' corrupt boys' network kept it from happening.

But, thanks to Hayshi's persistence in overcoming hurdles  (including the MTA Board's indifference, opposition from Luxor and Yellow cab companies, mindless personal attacks, cab driver paranoia and the Byzantine weirdness of the MTA) the idea is about to come to fruition as Electronic Taxi Access (ETA).

Under ETA, all apps would be required to show all the available cabs in San Francisco thus allowing the customers to choose the closest taxis on their smart phone apps. The benefits of this have been immediately obvious to every customer I've discussed the subject with but I'll spell them out anyway.

The customers will no longer have to guess which company (or companies) to call or hail because they will able to know what cabs are nearest to them. The taxis will be color coded by company so the customers can also select companies that they prefer. Coupled with pre-tipping or similar perks this should pretty much insure that the customers will get a ride in the shortest possible time.

The drivers will get the similar benefits. A Desoto driver will no longer have to go back downtown empty from the Richmond or the Sunset because a customer one block away from him or her called a Luxor and visa versa.

The balkanization of the cab industry into competing dispatching fiefdoms is one major reason that Uber et al have had such an easy time taking away our business. Drivers have been reticent to go into the neighborhoods because they have been afraid of no-goes caused by customers calling several taxi companies at once.

Electronic Taxi Access will help make us competitive again while improving service to the neighborhoods.

President Hansu Kim of Desoto Cab, on the other hand, is concerned that his company might lose its distinct brand with this system. While he agrees that all electronic hailing should be linked, Desoto is developing an app of its own which he thinks will give the public better service than anybody else in the business. He does not think that his app should be required to show taxis from cab companies that have invested nothing to improve service.

I wonder if this is as serious problem as he thinks it is? The color coding should distinguish Desoto from the other companies and, if his drivers continue to give superior service, customers will select them over the opposition and they should continue to make more money and want to stay with Desoto. If his app is really good customers will go to it to choose his cabs first. In addition, Desoto drivers will have the benefit of getting rides from other apps.

A Request for Information was put out a few months ago and the bid to create ETA was won by Frias Transportation Infrastructure (FTI) of Las Vegas.  FTI was chosen over CMT,  Digital Dispatch, Electronic Connect, Flywheel and Veriphone.


  1. Hey Ed, where did you get the impression pre-tipping would be part of the ETA? I can't find it anywhere in the regulations as written.

    Thanks for the writeup - I'm interested to see where this is going!

  2. i actualy drove for frias when i lived in vegas,i would rather be under stalin,
    god help us.

    1. Track Frias on Las Vegas Review Journal. You will get the picture.

  3. "President Hansu Kim of Desoto Cab, on the other hand, is concerned that his company might lose its distinct brand with this system. While he agrees that all electronic hailing should be linked, Desoto is developing an app of its own which he thinks will give the public better service than anybody else in the business. He does not think that his app should be required to show taxis from cab companies that have invested nothing to improve service."

    What does a cab company care care about customers? They rent the front seat and are usually sold out hence the cry for more cabs not more effective dispatching. Would or any company make more money if the drivers picked up a million customers a day? Of course not.
    They want to tell MTA "We need more cabs so we can service our customers" which is BS and MTA swallows it. They want more cabs for more profit

  4. Here is a link to an infuriating article from Slate magazine.
    It's not the article itself which is interesting but the comments made by reader in the comments section. The author is just another shill for Uber claiming that the FTC or Congress could step in to allow these illegal operators to be protected against the big bad taxi industry who is operating in collusion with with local government to rip off the public.

    The mood may finally be turning against Uber, Sidecar and Lyft. Read the comments section to get the real story.

  5. Finally it is in the table. I was in trouble for proposing centralized dispatch and became enemy of cab companies. We don't need more cabs if the system works well and the fleet is enough to cover the demand.

  6. Another bridge to nowhere build by apparachiks to satisfy the fantasies of control freaks. Uber, Sydecar, Lyft etc. are not the problem, they are the symptom of our failure to take care of business. I listened to the comments of drivers terrified of more cabs and it was pitiful to watch the hysteric frenzy of the deluded and ignorant. I heard one driver in the hall say, more cabs is bitter medicine but we will have to take it for the cure. That was the only sensible thing I heard all night.

  7. Electronic Taxi Access will never happen until the City pulls rank and requires it. Until then every "major" company will claim they should run things (Yellow and Luxor) or theirs is best (DeSoto) or you don't need anybody else at all (Luxor's 'Taxi Magic'). But if any of these companies owns the system, they will enact a proprietary and favoritistic policy; and if Yellow runs it, it will not work, though you will be told it is working and Yellow will hold seances for you before it will actually fix things. As everybody knows, Yellow's idea of how to convince the world we need more cabs is to add a 12-15 minute wait time to every phone order, which they reduce to 3 minutes when the MTA is on inspection tours of their company.

    Hello, the City should have the prerogative to see where all the cabs are, if only for enforcement and security reasons, a measure the companies should welcome. That much should be self-evident.

    There is no reason to disallow individual companies from having their own dispatch, and maybe they could obviate the City version by having a better version. Or maybe they could cooperate.

    Individual customers have no understanding of why these measures have not already long since been instituted; seeing all the cabs all the time seems like a no-brainer to them. They have to be carefully guided to understand that IN SAN FRANCISCO THE CAB COMPANIES ARE NOT IN THE BUSINESS OF PROVIDING TAXI SERVICE TO THE PUBLIC, THEY ARE IN THE BUSINESS OF LEASING CABS TO DRIVERS. Therefore, the companies want to spread the orders as thinly over as many cabs as possible. They don't want better dispatch.

    When you call a company for an order you are talking to the people who work for the people who DON'T want you to get a cab. They want you to do their evil politics for them, and get your representative to recommend more cabs. That will be their answer to your next question too, and the one after that.

    The first thing Yellow should do if it want people to believe they are motivated to fill individual orders is remove the long delay on their phone lines.

    In the meeting yesterday at City Hall, Nate Dwiri of Yellow Cab, feigning a hurt attitude, spoke not as he claimed to be speaking, to the financial motivation of his company to MEET individual orders, which, like all the companies is zero, but to the amount of money his company has SPENT on dispatch. (I notice that this figure always is for money spent on machines, never on employees.)

    But that money could just be called the high price of fighting universal dispatch.

    If there are going to be more machines in the cabs, I'm against it. Otherwise, it is obviously the right thing to do. There are so many machines in some of the cabs, that they sometimes a genuine distraction - even from down the block. At night, especially with the larger screens inside the Luxor cabs, this image is very visible. Enough is too much.

    The back-seat modules are no benefit and the problem that many drivers prophesied is coming to pass: passengers are hurting themselves on these units when the brakes are occasionally required to be applied very abruptly.

  8. The conspiracy nut at work.

  9. After watching the MTA meeting the other day, I was sorry to see that Brad Newsham is quitting the business but, good for him, Hey Brad, Thanks for all your thought and effort on behalf of the drivers, you always spoke so well for us, Im a big fan of yours and was in one of your photos at the the beach, hope you find some way to stay connected to the business, your voice and energy were a great asset. Its so sad now that we have all become pigeons looking for crumbs. I myself am a 23 year veteran driver and am looking for something else now and to be quite frank I think i'd rather stay in Golden Gate Park with the raccoons and humming birds than be slave to the MTA.

  10. Hats off to Brad and thanks for all his efforts. I first met him about 22 years ago when we teamed up to try in vain to get PUC interested in their job. Limos were just beginning to do their illegal stuff back then. They did not give a sh!t then and even less so now.

  11. To the person that mis-spelled APPARATCHIK please tell us how we should take care of the business or is more cabs the solution?

    1. Figure it out for yourself, genius.

  12. I guess I missed the part where Brad spoke. I'll be sorry to see him go. We've had our political differences over the last few years but I've always enjoyed his off-the-wall rants even when I was against what he was saying. A man with great theatrical instincts.

    Brad, I imagine that you'll have more sense than to stick around here like I'm doing. The world is ready for another book about your travels. Let's have coffee before you leave.

    1. Where is Brad going? Selling his medallion? leaving USA what?

    2. Thanks - Enjoyed this blog post, can I set it up so I receive an alert email every time you write a fresh article?

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