The Big App

Spotted on a phone left in my cab

It was reported last week that a new app is now out that helps passengers find empty cabs that are nearby and traveling under 10 MPH. Of course, it’s free for them download but a monthly fee for us and I’m taking a wild guess in saying that the developers expect us to recoup the cost by having enough extra fares. While this seems like a good idea, I’m not so sure if this is going to work as envisioned.

For starters, this wouldn’t ever be used by us at rush hour. Ever. Rush hour tends to be one big long fare broken up among many passengers. To be sure, I will get pulled out to the outer Boroughs now and then during peak periods but if I’m in Manhattan, it’s just one nonstop whirlwind. I have my spots where I know people are streaming out of work and eventually, that mass will work their way home or to where the social hotspots of the night happen to be. Scanning the paper and listening to my passengers is how I take the pulse of the city and once in a while, the other drivers I keep in touch with will inform me of any particular clubs or parties that are letting out and in short supply of Taxis.

Then there’s the issue of when to check our phones. Commissioner Yassky kindly reminded us in the article linked above to pull over when needing to do that but let’s face it, how many times have you seen one of us pull over, throw the flashers on, and check our text messages?

Exactly.

Hands-free devices are great for calls but there’s too many times where I have to actually pull up the screen on my phone to find out what I’m looking for. Thankfully, I have plenty of red lights to help me out with that but when cruising along, my focus is totally on what’s ahead of me and where my next fare is, since so many of them are so poor at getting noticed (hint: wave your phone when you hail – we can see them real easily!).

My bigger concern is the pace of life and how this would speed it up even more. The idea of using an app to find out where we are is great but if there’s one thing us cabdrivers know, it’s that the rules don’t apply during the lean periods. When the streets are bare, drivers will do *anything* to get a fare, and that sure includes breaking traffic laws and rules of common courtesy. The fare that’s half a block ahead at two in the morning might be someone else’s when he cuts across five lanes of traffic to claim it for himself and there’s no doubt that another cab could easily steal a fare that has already “claimed” you via the app. Eventually, someone will come up with a better mousetrap and the app in its planned form will become outdated like a Motorola phone. What would that make us?

A for-hire-vehicle, which wouldn’t be that much different than a black car…and you know how much us and them get along.

No, yellow cabs will never become black cars in a literal sense but there’s something to be said for having the exclusive right to take street hails. It’s the essence of who we are and what we do and like so many other jobs in the 21st Century, the definition of that line of work if being radically altered by mobile technology. Yes, I am guilty of that in a small way, not only because I love my iPhone but because I was actually interviewed by a company that’s currently developing something similar. It’s called Hailo and so far, it’s been a success in London. There isn’t a date yet for the Big Apple rollout will be but before that happens, yours truly will probably be involved in a test run on some way, shape, or form.

Given what I’ve said, that probably sounds hypocritical but I’m willing to give it a shot and put my own personal preferences aside. My opinions are strong but I refuse to pull a Quinn and force someone or something from being in New York without letting the people of the city decide for themselves if they want it. Ideas deserve a shot in the marketplace that is New York and even though the Taxi industry has been too slow to embrace change and technology, hopefully these new apps will make life easier for us and the riding public that we depend on every time we hit the streets.

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