New app helps taxi drivers, riders find each other
New Yorkers who have a hard time finding a taxi -- expecially at odd hours of the day -- can say "hail yes."
A new app promises to unite potential passengers with taxis on the prowl for a fare.
The app, "ZabKab", which became available for iPhone and Androids Wednesday from Flatiron Apps, is the first app that can be used to hail a yellow cab. The program is actuallya pair of companion apps -- one that allows passengers to send out a virtual "hail" using GPS to let taxis know where they are, and another that shows drivers where there are folks looking for a ride.
The idea is to help reducecab-catching frustration for riders, and the amount of time drivers spend looking for customers.
Roland Sainristil, 41, is one of the more than 1,000 drivers that downloaded the app before its official launch. He said that when it's not rush hour, he sometimes spends up to 25 minutes looking for a fare.
"Once rush hour is over, it's really difficult to get a fare," said the Queens resident. "I think this could be a good tool for drivers."
Flatiron Apps co-founder Martin Heikel said that the app was built to in line with Taxi and Limousine Commission regulations that bar drivers from prearranging pickups or using their phones while on the road.
"We're pleased that the taxi world continues to see rapid technological innovation, particularly apps like this one that may help passengers connect with available taxis," said TLC Commissioner David Yassky, adding, "I do caution drivers, however, that they must pull over if they want to check a smartphone for passengers."
The app is free for passengers and will cost between $9.95 and $14.95 a month for taxi drivers.
New Yorkers, though, were skeptical as to whether the app would actually be useful in Manhattan.
"I definitely see it working in, say, Brooklyn, but not on the main thoroughfares here," said West Village architect Ron Masters, 41, a frequent taxi commuter. He wondered whether others looking for cabs might just snatch the one he'd have hailed.
"But I think that anything that helps you get a cab is a good thing," he added.
In recent years, a barrage of transit apps have hit the market to help New Yorkers commute more easily. In February, the MTA selected the best transit apps in the city, which included Embark NYC (a trip-planning app that even works underground) and Free NYC Subway Locator, an iPhone app to show users where the nearest subway is.
You've downloaded the new "ZabKab" app. Now what?
-Passengers tap the green hail button on their phone, sending a GPS signal out to taxi drivers in a five mile radius with the app with their location.
-Taxi drivers can look at their app to see where there are available fares. The app doesn't work if the cab is moving above 10 mph, but it will beep when new "hails" enter their locations.
-Passengers can also see where there are taxis that have the app by looking at the map on their screen.
-If passengers rotate their phone horizontally, the phone lights up with the ZabCab logo and flashes to let "ZabKab" drivers know where you are (and help ward off taxi snatchers).