SFMTA may change course with development of taxi hailing app 

A proposed e-hailing app for all taxis in San Francisco may no longer be developed after an independent company is already providing a similar service. - MIKE KOOZMIN/THE S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • Mike Koozmin/The S.f. Examiner File photo
  • A proposed e-hailing app for all taxis in San Francisco may no longer be developed after an independent company is already providing a similar service.

A city-run e-hailing app in the works for all taxis in San Francisco may no longer roll out, as an independent company is already providing the service and The City's transit agency has shifted focus to specific data provided by the software that enables the app.

The app was initially scheduled to launch in April, but the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency's efforts are now on streamlining data from three payment companies that work with San Francisco taxis through the RideIntegrity software.

Receiving data, like location and in-service times that can be used for regulating the industry, at first seemed like an "accidental benefit" during the development of the app, said Chris Hayashi, the agency's deputy director of taxis and accessible services division. But Flywheel, a third-party company, has already developed an app to hail taxis that works similar to the industry's competition -- app-based ride services including Uber, Lyft and Sidecar.

Whether the SFMTA's e-hailing app will come to fruition is to be determined, said Hayashi, who will give an update at today's board of directors meeting.

Flywheel reported that drivers from every cab company use its app and it provides 20 to 30 percent of orders for some of the largest fleets. A customer gets a taxi within three minutes on average of hailing, according to Flywheel.

"Flywheel has essentially reached the finish line," Hayashi said. "And so while we can continue to move our project forward, what I don't want the message to be is there's somehow not going to be hailing for taxis in San Francisco because it already exists and seems to be doing just fine."

The SFMTA board previously voted down an option to install devices on all taxis that would feed GPS information to the future e-hailing app, cutting $4 million in costs and slicing the price tag to $2.1 million over five years.

But the data from payment companies currently has a 20-second refresh rate, "simply not adequate to support e-hailing," which needs closer to a six-second refresh rate, Hayashi said. Currently, 70 percent of taxis have data integrated with RideIntegrity because they use the credit payment company Wireless Edge. The remaining 30 percent that use the credit companies Creative Mobile Technology and Verifone are currently being processed.

The SFMTA doesn't have a formal partnership with Flywheel, but the company has its marketing materials on Muni buses.

About The Author

Jessica Kwong

Jessica Kwong

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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