SFMTA board offers support to third-party taxi hailing apps 

After giving the green light last year for the development of an e-hailing app for all taxis in San Francisco, transit agency officials had no qualms about shifting gears Tuesday to focus on the data meant to enable the technology.

In addition, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board offered support for third-party hailing apps already in business. An independent company, Flywheel, already works with drivers from every city cab company on its e-hailing app and its ads will run on Muni buses starting in June, Chris Hayashi, head of taxis for the SFMTA, reported at Tuesday's board meeting. The agency is open to promoting similar app services like Taxi Magic, she said.

For SFMTA board member Malcolm Heinicke, advertising for companies like Flywheel and Taxi Magic seemed like a "natural progression" of the e-hailing effort.

"Maybe it's time to jump on the bandwagon and use some of this money to advertise to the community that there is this fleet and it's bigger than Uber," he said.

The SFMTA is now directing its efforts to importing cab location, occupancy and other data into its new software system originally acquired to develop the city-run app. It will then decide whether to proceed with its own app.

Hansu Kim, president of DeSoto Cab Co., had no problem with the new direction.

"It gives [the SFMTA] the regulatory control they need without having to build a whole system which they naively thought they could do it before," he said.

But for Mark Gruberg, 72, who drives for SF Green Cab and has been in the taxi industry for three decades, not developing the city-run app would be a missed opportunity.

"If we had a single app with the entire industry subscribed to it," he said, "we would be in a better position to compete with Uber, Lyft and Sidecar."

About The Author

Jessica Kwong

Jessica Kwong

Bio:
Jessica Kwong covers transportation, housing, and ethnic communities, among other topics, for the San Francisco Examiner. She covered City Hall as a fellow for the San Francisco Chronicle, night cops and courts for the San Antonio Express-News, general news for Spanish-language newspapers La Opinión and El Mensajero,... more
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