Need a Taxi Cab in San Francisco? MTA Wants an App for That

It’s late. And dark. And maybe starting to sprinkle a little.

All you want to do is get home. Or get to the Giants game before Lincecum’s first pitch. Or…go anywhere. San Francisco Taxi Smartphone App

But you can’t find a cab.

San Francisco is one of the most difficult places to hail a ride – as we already know.  A Controller’s Report from 2006 even found that 33% of San Franciscans looking for a cab on a weekend night had to wait more than 30 minutes. Apparently, however, our city government is finally getting the message that we’re tired of waiting.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency – which handles cabs in The City – is proposing spending $400,000 on a pilot program that would enable people with smartphones to see where there are cabs in their immediate vicinity and then order one.

From Web 2.0 to Gov 2.0

It makes sense. More and more San Franciscans are using smartphones and the technology is already out there. One app that SF MTA is considering using for the program is Cabulous, which already works with 400 taxis in The City. MTA would expand Cabulous (or a similar app after reviewing proposals from other companies) to all of San Francisco’s 1,500 taxis. MTA would also pay the $400,000 for the first year, leaving the companies to take over payment after that.

Another app that is being used by Luxor Cab is Taxi Magic, which allows users to type in the address where they would like to be picked up, along with a time, and magically a cab appears! Luxor saw the need for an app that makes hailing a cab as easy as tapping a few smartphone buttons and put $100,000 into developing it. According to an SF Examiner report this AM - they’re none too thrilled that SF MTA is offering to foot the bill for the first year for the other cab companies.

What do you think? Should SF MTA invest in a smartphone program that allows users to see where cabs are and then order one? Should the companies themselves have to pay for the pilot program, or is SF MTA doing the right thing by putting up the money for the first year?

Juan Carlos Sanchez's picture

$400,000 for a Taxi Cab Smartphone App in San Francisco

Yes, I've struggled to find cabs more times than I care to remember. But, in these tough economic times, is it worth investing $400,000 - money that can go to the most needy here in San Francisco - so smartphone users don't have to (OMG) call a taxi? This plan makes no sense to me. If there is real benefit here - then the private taxi cab companies should fund this new technology privately.
dean783's picture

A Lot of Money

I guess the SFMTA has a lot of money to spend on an application. I hope they don't plan on increasing parking tickets and selling off more medallions to pay for such a thing. I agree we need a centralized dispatch but you would think they could strike a deal where an app is free in this economic climate.


I disagree with the thought of releasing more medallions and hurting drivers income. The out come would be less cabs on the street because who wants to work for nothing, obviously city employees don't want to work for nothing, why expect taxi drivers to do this?


Incentives need to be in place for the taxi companies to want to service the customers. Currently there is no incentive because the cab companies get paid whether a passenger gets a cab or not. There fore increasing more cabs gives the companies more money but once again no incentive to get cabs to the passengers requesting them. By getting the customer in direct contact with the driver is the best approach, less wait time and picked up more quickly.


I think those of you who keep talking about more cabs on the street need to think for a second. If you went to work and could not handle your work load and the boss came up and said we need another person you would like it. However if your boss told you that you make 50K per year and when they bring on the other person your income would drop to 25K so they can pay 25k to the new person. You would not want the other person on board now would you.

robertsck01's picture

The wrong focus

MTA should be focused on getting more cabs on the street.  Let private companies invest in new technology.  Of course, if the cab industry wasn't a regulated industry in the first place, every cab company would be investing significant amounts of money in technology in order to stay competitive and win over new customers.  Perhaps a better solution would be to get SF GOV out of the cab business altogether.  

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