Tag Archives: app-based transportation

Pretty Fly (for a Taxi Hailing App)

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My biggest gripe with Flywheel (the app, not the taxi company, formerly called DeSoto, who tried to promote the Flywheel app by changing their name and color scheme) is that, instead of focusing on getting users through marketing, the company put all their energy in TaxiOS, a backend system to replace the current hardwired taximeter.

The obvious reason for doing this was to sell out. Which they did. To a company called Cabconnect. When I met the CEO of Cabconnect a few months ago, the first thing I asked was how he planned to handle marketing.

He had several ideas about incorporating paratransit into the app, as well as unique ways to hails a cab from hospitals and bars, but he didn’t have many ideas about WHY people would want to use the app to get a taxi.

Shortly thereafter, these ads popped up on Flywheel’s Twitter account:

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Beyond emphasizing that taxi drivers are properly vetted and trained, and that taxi rates don’t go up depending upon demand, these ads don’t really explain what makes taxis a better option.

Most users don’t care about the issue of training, insurance and background checks. And many users are more than willing to pay surge pricing.

So… what makes taxis special?

Figuring out the answer to that question compelled me to write the column “Disrupt the Disruptors,” but as the taxi industry continues to crumble, even the greatest marketing campaign ever conceived on Madison Ave hardly seems to stand a chance against the PR damage that’s been done…

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Disrupting the Disruptors?

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This week’s column for the S.F. Examiner is about the recent decision to give the money in the Driver Fund to the cab drivers, app-based transportation and marketing…

It’s hard not to feel like my taxi driving days are numbered. Hell, the entire industry seems doomed. As things continue to go from bad to worse, Green Cab started a GoFundMe campaign this week to crowdfund the $30,000 they need to stay in business, while the SFMTA plans to divvy up $4.7 million among 5,000 cab drivers to the tune of $400 to $900 each, based on seniority.

So what am I going to do with my “windfall?” Pay off my backbook at National? Buy a couple cartons of cigarettes? Wipe my ass with four crisp $100 bills?

Not to be rude, but using the Taxi Driver Fund as a retirement package is shortsighted and stupid. Even if I were to get the same share as a 30-year veteran, my rent is $1,700 a month. It’ll take more than a few hundred dollars to offset my financial problems.

When they mail the checks, they should write in the memo line, “Thanks for nothing, chump!”

Personally, I voted to spend the Driver Fund on advertising. Which may seem just as stupid, since taxis are repeatedly called a “legacy” industry, as if they’re already obsolete. But the only difference between an Uber/Lyft vehicle and a taxi is a color scheme and a phone number painted on the side. Oh, and centralized dispatch.

Uber and Lyft didn’t disrupt taxis, they disrupted the taxi companies that resisted centralized dispatch and made no effort to provide consistently good customer service. Brag about fingerprinting all you want, but if you can’t prevent a driver from kicking an old lady to the curb because she wants to use a credit card, you’re going to lose your customers once a better option is available.

Read the rest here.

The silent us are out there: a letter from a reader

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July 28, 2017

Kelly,

I’ll be brief: I appreciate your columns. I don’t always enjoy them, because some of your experiences push my buttons, good and bad, but I do appreciate them. A long time ago, another cab driver used to post his column, and it also was worth reading. I believe it was called Night Cabbie.

I’ve lived in the Castro for over 20 years. I used to hate waiting for a cab when I needed one, like when I had 4 bags of groceries from Safeway. They didn’t come when called, and in the daytime, they were all parked downtown at the hotels. I knew that my $6 (way back) plus $1-2 tip could not compete. And I resented that I was “second class” behind downtown fares.

And Uber swung the pendulum my way. Any ride, any time. Yippee. But then the reality set in. Uber was mean and aggressive, very un-SF-like. I tried Taxi Magic/Curb, but without a credit card guarantee, they would blow me off too. Finally, Lyft came along. Soon, I noticed that 40% of taxi drivers were “new”. The regulars quit, retired, or started driving for Uber. It bothered me a bit.

Finally, the taxi industry got their shit together and produced an app: Flywheel. Took a while to work the kinks out, but it’s fine now.

I like the experience of taxis. I like that the driver usually knows where I’m going and the best way to get there without relying on “Wayz” app or gps. I like that taxi drivers will pull up in front of my door, get out, and help me with those bags of groceries. I like that the drivers know where and how to flip a U-turn and get it done without whining. I like that I don’t have to worry about surge pricing. And I know that taxis have all the proper certifications and insurance.

I like Flywheel because it levels the playing field for fares, from Yellow Cab and Luxor down to the small independents.

I’m glad that Uber came along. It changed my life for the better in getting a ride. I usually split between Lyft and taxis depending on circumstances, but I want my taxis to stay around.

So you keep writing and keep driving.

The silent us are out there.

David Fusilier
San Francisco, CA

Take This App and Shove It: On Flywheel’s TaxiOS

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So Flywheel (the app, not the taxi company, though is there really a difference?) has developed a backend app for drivers called TaxiOS, or, what we call a “soft meter.”

Flywheel wants to push the SFMTA to replace traditional taximeters with this app. So instead of the taximeter, hardwired to the tires to determine distance, we would use GPS, which sees the city of San Francisco, based on a map, as flat, when is is anything but.

I cry foul. I’ve worked for app companies before (Uber and Lyft) and prefer the traditional taximeter. I don’t trust apps. Sure, for social media like Facebook or Twitter, but to determine what are essentially my living wages, which are a bare minimum at best?

No thanks.

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Don’t get me wrong, Flywheel, the app, which allows anyone to hail a cap instantly through their phone, is great. If only they’d advertise more so we’d get more business. But no… instead of focusing on getting more users, they are trying to take over the SF taxi industry.

This is the subject of my column this week.

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A Fare in the Backseat is Worth Two on the Street

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National Cab yard closed for Christmas

This week’s column for the S.F. Examiner is about the frustrations of app-based transportation and an exploration of the many reasons why a cab might pass up a fare…

When passengers tell me they were never able to order a cab, I usually ask which company they’d call. Almost always it was Yellow. Or Luxor. Or DeSoto. The three cab companies with the largest fleets. But what about the smaller companies? National’s motto is “We answer the phone!”

Read the rest here.