Starting next month, Philadelphians will be able to hail a city cab with their smartphone.
The New York company Verifone, which provides credit card-payment technology in the back of Philly cabs, has been hinting at the possibility of introducing a ride-hailing app for months to help traditional cabs to go toe to toe with ridesharing juggernauts Lyft and Uber.
Verifone is set to launch the same service in Boston, Miami and Washington, D.C., this year. In Philadelphia, the company said, more than 45,000 customers have already downloaded the app called Way2ride.
“One of the things the last few years has taught us, is that consumers want to be able to get a ride with their phone,” said Verifone’s Jason Gross. “I think bringing that to the taxi industry is such a natural evolution. There’s a lot of demand out there for it.”
With city medallion values plummeting and taxi ridership falling off, Gross said the Way2ride service should help capture some new riders. And since Verifone already has equipped 1,400 of the city’s 1,600 cabs with credit card readers, backseat TVs and technology in the front seat, the app’s integration is basically built in.
“So when we flip the switch in October, the driver doesn’t need to sign up, they don’t need to download an app, they don’t even need a smartphone,” Gross said. “That trip request is going to start showing up on a screen they already have. And they can tap a button and accept that hail.”
The app’s creators also are touting another perk — unlike Uber and Lyft, which raise fares when demand is high, no such hikes will happen with Way-2-Ride.
That’s not out of generosity, though. It’s because taxi rates are set and regulated by the Philadelphia Parking Authority.
Old-school taxicabs upping their game comes just as ridesharing company Uber has said it’s logged a million rides in the Philadelphia area, bragging of more than 6,000 part-time drivers.
But city regulators have the company in its cross hairs. And Uber is fighting the city’s effort to fine the company $1,000 a day for operating illegally.
In December, a group of Philadelphia cab companies sued Uber for operating a “criminal enterprise” that routinely flouts state and city laws — in particular, the one requiring purchase of a “medallion,” a type of permit overseen by the PPA that allows taxis to operate legally in Philadelphia.
As the case awaits a trial date, Uber has filed a motion to dismiss claiming that Uber “does not provide transportation services directly.”