Not Many People Are Using Their Smartphones To Hail Taxis In NYC

Taxi-hailing apps like Uber and Hailo are just getting started in NYC, but so far, not many urbanites are choosing to hitch a ride from their smartphones.

In April, New York City approved a pilot program to let people to hail cabs on their smartphones. UberTaxi became the first approved participant in the pilot program that seemed poised to revolutionize the way we hail cabs.

But according to initial data from the program's first month, these smartphone apps have miles to go before they become a ubiquitous alternative to waving your hand in the air on a street corner. In June, smartphone-based taxi requests accounted for less than 0.25% of all yellow cab rides hailed in the city.

It's reasonable to assume the ability to order a car wherever you are could extend service to more far-flung areas where taxicabs may normally be scarce. But pilot data shows nearly 80% of rides requested in June came from within Manhattan. In Staten Island, where Taxi and Limousine commissioner David Yassky says "finding a yellow taxi is just one step above finding a unicorn," five potential passengers requested taxis from their phones (and just one actually got a ride) in the entire month.

Perhaps surprisingly, only 17% of the 117,000 requests made through e-hailing apps translated into actual transactions, in which a driver successfully picked up the passenger who originally requested the ride. There are several reasons why a ride requested via smartphone might not be successful: I've had drivers double-book rides; I've skipped out on an inbound cab because I found an available one sooner (oops); and, one time, I actually caught a stranger attempting to get into the UberTaxi I had hailed minutes after my Hailo ride canceled on me.

Of course, this is only data culled from the first four weeks of a 12-month program. But we want to know: Have you ever used a smartphone app to hail a cab? What was your experience like? Tell us in the comments.

[Image: Flickr user danichro]

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6 Comments

  • Sam Maule

    I travel to NYC frequently for business and work mainly in Manhattan or LIC. I use Uber religiously and have found it to be one of my favorite apps. I prefer to use this service instead of the other black car options, especially when I travel to JFK or LaGuardia.

  • Alice

    In Athens, Greece the Taxibeat App is the best because of the awesome UI that let you watch the driver coming and read reviews from other users!

  • MK

    In Sydney, Australia Uber Taxi doesn't provide rides to customers originating out of the suburbs, which is where you need them. Reason being is that they are all located downtown/CBD and when you're in a location that is 10 min away the app will simply tell you "no taxis available". However, they are great for Black cars!

    On the other hand goCatch, an Australian taxi app, works a treat! I've used it dozens of times and most of the times I've had no issues. Cab turns up and driver will typically call you to ensure you wait for him. I don't need to use the app when I'm downtown, similar to the Manhattan situation, as there are plenty of cabs around to hail. Check them out!!! 

  • Jeff Z

    I use Über multiple times per week in Chicago. Not many cabs go down my street, so it is perfect for me. I rarely have an issue securing a driver (peak times occasionally). Über is great.

  • Kevinnichols

    I downloaded Uber during a visit to NYC in June. In Midtown, on a Wednesday afternoon, I tried to use it to hail a cab.

    Initially, the time to pickup was 3 minutes. (Whoa...I can handle that.)  So we waited..and waited...then I checked the app and the time to pickup suddenly was 8 minutes...then 12 minutes.  Each time I checked, it was floating around 10 minutes.

    Finally, I gave up...cancelled the Uber pickup and hailed a yellow cab in about 5 minutes.

    I'm sure the drivers using Uber find it frustrating to get a pickup call, try to get there, and then get a cancellation.