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Commissioner’s Corner

January 2013

There are a few important issues to touch base on this month, most notably the Commission’s vote last week to approve a one-year test of smartphone apps.  Perhaps more to the point, these apps would allow customers of yellow medallion taxicabs, which historically served riders only via the arm-up hail, to “e-hail.”   E-hailing is a newly-coined term we define as using technology to pre-arrange trip with a yellow cab, with parameters that maintain all of the passenger protections, but still help match a prospective rider with an available ride.  One example of such protections is that, under the guidelines of the pilot program, a taxi driver will never know the passenger’s destination prior to his/her accepting and acknowledging the e-hail.  On the safety side, we’ll be limiting the number of devices drivers may use to accept e-hails to a single phone that is conveniently mounted.  Drivers will be able to accept an e-hail with a single screen-tap, making it even less potentially distracting than changing the radio station or adjusting the defroster.

Another advantage to these “apps” (short for applications) is that they may help passengers pay their fares more quickly and conveniently, and the guidelines to which each app developer would have to agree requires that they integrate with any and all TPEP systems in place, so that the payment both from the passenger and to the driver becomes effortlessly seamless.

The Board of Commissioners votes
The Board of Commissioners votes unanimously for the TPEP 2.0 rules

Leading up to the program’s approval, we had extensive dialogue with industry leaders running the gamut of our regulated industries, doing our best to answer questions, allay concerns and mitigate potential problems.  While the program was originally conceived as a set of permanent rules, discussions with industry leaders and my fellow Commissioners pointed to the wisdom of testing the waters for a while first.  This will give us an opportunity to learn how it will affect all the stakeholders through quarterly reports that will gauge impacts on ridership, income, and several other key points.

Another key development was the unanimous approval of the TPEP 2.0 rules, which essentially encompasses every lesson learned from the TPEP system’s enormously successful five year history.  These rules create a permanent foundation for credit card use by passengers, by extending the necessary guidelines beyond the expiration of the two exclusive contracts held by the existing TPEP vendors, Creative Mobile Technologies and VeriFone, to whom we all owe a debt of thanks for an outstanding and pioneering effort.  It’s been written about in the press and well known among licensees that credit cards played a critical role in pulling the taxi industry through the economic downturn, but more importantly, it has brought new business to taxis that it otherwise would not have had.  Perhaps most importantly, however, is the fact that passengers have overwhelmingly latched onto the credit card fare payment, to the point where well over 50% of all fares are paid for by plastic, and the customer is always right!  Right?

Lastly, allow me to wish you and your families all a most happy, healthy and joyous holiday season and New Year.  It’s been a year of great highs and equally great lows, but looking ahead, in the words of the great John Lennon, let’s hope it’s a good one, without any fears.

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