Philly taxis fight ride sharing with their own apps

 Philadelphia taxi companies are updating their technology to compete with ride-sharing services like Uber. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Philadelphia taxi companies are updating their technology to compete with ride-sharing services like Uber. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Ride-sharing services are all the rage. Passengers in cities serviced by companies like Lyft and Uber can book rides easily on their smartphones. Like it or not, old-school taxis are getting with the times.

Gone are the days of standing on the corner with your arm outstretched, trying to hail a taxi. Or at least these days, there’s another way — apps.

“We implemented an app that a customer can just use to their Android or iPhone devices and with a couple clicks on their phone, a cab will come to their location without them even having to provide an address – just based on their GPS location,” said Ed Burkhardt, vice president of All Threes, a luxury sedan and taxi cab company so named because of its memorable phone number: 215-333-3333.

It isn’t the only tech-savvy Philly area cab company. 

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Everett Abitbol is the owner of Freedom Taxi — those powder blue and maroon cabs on Philly streets.

“We wanted to be able to provide an app that allows you to, what we call, ‘e-Hail a taxi.’ Companies like Uber have forced the hand of the taxi industry across the country to embrace technology, and I think it’s been a great thing,” Abitbol said.

The company’s phone message advertises that using the app is the “fastest and most efficient way to order a Freedom Taxi,” while also allowing customers to “track cabs directly on your phone, as it arrives at your door.”

Abitbol said since the app’s launch about a year ago, riders have used it to book about 40,000 trips. Nostalgic for the old days? You may be out of luck.  He expects it to get harder and harder to streching out your arm to beckon a cab — more and more empty cabs will already be en route to customers who requested them online.

“I think that the advances both from the taxi side, the app developer side and the livery or limousine side are going to continue to increase to make the consumers’ use of our product that much easier.”

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal