Saturday, November 23, 2013

Thoughts on Electronic Taxi Acess (ETA)

Director Christiane Hayashi would have had an easier time with the measure if she'd simply pushed for the Electronic Taxi Access part without including additional data collection. But the Director thinks the information to be gained will be invaluable in helping her regulate the taxi industry and she's never been one to back down from a fight if she thought she was right.

On the other hand, Yellow and Luxor killed a similar measure two years ago so she would have had a battle in any case.

I supported ETA, despite a few reservations about personal privacy, because I think this may be our only chance to get a universal dispatching system. And, without universal dispatch, we'll never be able to compete with Uber and the TNC's (Twit & Nerd Carriers).

Company Opposition

Hansu Kim, President of Desoto Cab, told me that he favored a universal App but was against the Frias Transportation Infrastructure (FTI) platform. He said that FTI had refused to co-operate with San Francisco taxi companies and that the taxi companies had offered their data to FTI but the tech company had refused to give them the technology necessary to transfer their data. He also seemed to fear that FTI (an offshoot of Frias Transportation which runs cab companies in Las Vegas) would try to take over the local business.

The compromise with the SFMTA would appear to render Kim's first objection moot. If the San Francisco companies provide the data necessary for ETA, FTI would have to provide the necessary technology to use it or loose their software contact.

As for Frias taking over ... I guess that is a legitimate concern. However, Hayashi has said that the contract with FTI includes clauses that will prevent them from entering the taxi business in San Francisco.

Down Dinosaur Walk

Nate Dwiri of Yellow cab presented his usual set of dubious statistics at the Board meeting and then pulled my-favorite-all-time-argument-for-more-taxis out of his cellar. He claimed that Yellow was unable fill their dispatch orders which proved (for him) that the city needs more cabs. In other words, he used Yellow's incompetence as a reason for the SFMTA to help him make more money. There is much to be said about this:

  1. Sources tell me that, for years, Yellow has deliberately been holding calls in order create the stats that Dwiri gave out at the meeting. In short, Yellow has been deliberately giving poor service so that the city will give them more medallions. Bizarre – but entirely possible under the gate system.
  2. Although I don't have definitive proof for the above assertion, the information gleamed from Yelp on Yellow shows that there are drastic problems with Yellow's dispatching service. Out of 91 Yelp reviews, 6 were positive. 80 of the reviews were negative, giving only one star (out of a possible 5). Many of these reviewers expressed regret that they couldn't give a negative rating. 
  3. Yellow can't come close to filling their shifts now. Where would Mr. Dwiri park additional cabs?
  4. Mr. Dwiri does not drive cabs anymore. If he did he would realize that that there already are far too many taxis on the street most of the time. 
  5. I spent a couple of hours with Taxi Services' inspectors last Saturday night (see future post) and we watched empty cabs following each other down Mission and Polk streets while Lyft and Sidecars were picking up right and left. Why? The customers had hailed the same TNC's that had picked them up at home and taken them there.
Charles Rathbone of Luxor Cab, on the other hand, argued that Luxor didn't want to provide the city with their data because their dispatching system gave them a leg up on their competitors.

I guess he means Desoto, Yellow, ect. More to the point might be Bay Cab.

Mr. Rathbone has expressed anger with me in the past for calling Luxor a dinosaur. But I don't know what other comparison to make: Neandrathal? Denisovan (early hominoids who had sex with Neandrathals)? Or, for a non-extinct species, the Ostrich?

Cab companies competing with each other is as relevant to the problems facing the taxi industry today as the Warring States Period of Ancient China is to modern geopolitics.

The real game today is taxi companies vs Uber & the TNC's. It's how to win back the hearts and minds of the riding public. The only way to succeed is to take back our turf in the outer districts and the only way to do that is a universal dispatching system. The only brand that's important for us now is Taxicabs.

Although many companies are against ETA, most drivers are for it, and I have yet to meet a customer who didn't find the idea "awesome."

We win those customers back and they'll be plenty of business for everybody.

7 comments:

  1. Your info seems a bit dated. There has been a company wide emphasis on improving service in the last year.

    I am an insider. Holding calls? No. Probably just inefficiencies of the system.

    Out of 92 YELP reviews only 7 or 8 are from 2013. Three or four of them are positive.

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  2. Thanks "anonymous" for updating the article. If they are improving services then its a good sign.

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  3. "Leg up on the competition" my ass. "we can't fill our orders" my ass. If a Luxor driver picked zero or 50 loads the gate is the same and ergo so is the profit.

    They don't want the fleet to be more efficient because more cabs is the only route to more profit unless they cut costs.

    The entire industry is the equivalent of a mom and pop book store on 40th avenue compared to Amazon and one could compare the Gang of Three to the Luddites. (look it up)

    Even getting 35-40 below market medallions from MTA does not stop the clamber for more breaks.

    Now they want to cut medallion holders pay ...

    Richard Hybels

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  4. I really hope this centralized dispatch works out for us. It just seems that what was approved is going to be some mutated idea what we envisioned. It sems to be designed to extract more $$$ from us to the SFMTA, than a centralized dispatch . Flywheel and TaxiMagic work just fine.

    The REAL SOLUTION is to fix the driver problem. Centralized dispatch is going to do NOTHING for us unless the driver stop turning down credit cards, refusing passengers to the neighborhoods, and stop being so damn RUDE to passengers who don't deserve it. Don't forget maniac drivers.

    CENTRALIZED DISPATCH is just a band aid over a bullet wound....at this point

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  5. Centralized dispatch will slowly changed the ball game. Customers told me that one of the reason they uses uber and lyft is that they can retrieve expense statement. Nowaday, young customers are accustomed to quick app order on the phone. The bottom line is that they can get pick up quicker having a centralized dispatching system.
    Yes, we need the driver to focus on providing excellent service. They truly need trainings by the company. The cab company staffs must set a good example. So far I am seeing some really rude and ignorant staffs at the cab company.
    I am suggesting surge pricing for cab drivers at peak time. This will mske up for trips to the sunset and richmond districts. Cab drivers will less likely refused to go to places like that.
    Many customers that I talked to are happy and looking forward to ETA.

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  6. I hear this woman is leaving the MTA. What's that all about.?

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  7. I think it is good step to do some changes on taxis service system. It helps a lot to daily customers and other long distance travelers. Thanks for sharing this knowledgeable post about ETA!!

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