Going bumper-to-bumper with Uber

Going bumper-to-bumper with Uber

By Anna Harris (File photo)

As cabbies continue to bemoan lost business with the arrival of Uber in the Port City, two local companies have teamed up to level the playing field.

Greater Alexandria-based Taxi Magic created a smartphone app that enables customers to book a taxi to and from anywhere in the Alexandria and D.C. metropolitan area. And Alexandria Yellow Cab utilizes this service, which the company says benefits local residents.

“The goal is to make [booking a taxi] as easy and convenient [for clients] as possible,” said Kyle Summers, general manager of Alexandria Yellow Cab.

After booking a taxi, customers can keep track of their taxi’s route and fare via phone.

Customers access the app online or on their smartphones and pay by credit card. It also offers automated call and text options.

“We are transforming the tech experience using the power of mobile technology,” said Taxi Magic spokesman Matt Carrington. “If you’re a rider, the benefit is you’ll get a ride quickly, and you’re going to have more control over that ride.”

The app helps Yellow Cab taxi drivers as well. Drivers still keep all fare revenue from the ride and offering trips via the Internet allows them to remain relevant with consumers. Taxi Magic connects riders with the closest driver, so cabs save time and gas while picking up more customers.

“It’s more business,” said Yellow Cab driver Bereket Teklehaiman on the app broadening his client base.

Providing electronic booking helps local cab companies compete against Uber, which is classified as a limo service by state regulators and, as such, doesn’t face the same restrictions.

“There is some general unfairness in the way new competitors have entered into the market,” said Carrington. “They haven’t necessarily been subject to the same rules and regulations that the rest of the taxis have to follow.”

Summers believes that Taxi Magic makes Yellow Cab drivers competitive with Uber by offering the same service but at a better price point.

“We’re just Alexandria Yellow Cab, so we try to find as many ways for drivers to be able to get fares through whatever means,” Summers said.

While Taxi Magic helps drivers at Yellow Cab compete, problems still exist for many area companies that haven’t adopted the app yet.

Samuel Tsegaye, a White Top driver, said he often waits at a taxi stand for three hours without getting any clients. Even with repeat customers, it’s hard competing with Uber and similar services like Taxi Magic.

“We used to get calls, but now Uber is taking business [away from us]. … We are not happy,” he said.

Carrington said Taxi Magic is open to working with other cab companies in the city if enough interest exists and they have the technology that can support the app.