Should We Start Sharing Taxis?

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Hailing a yellow cab in Midtown - the old-fashioned way (bluepix52/flickr)

A new study shows that sharing cabs could make our taxi system up to 40% more efficient. But, would you really share a cab with a stranger just to save a few bucks (and gallons)? Carlo Ratti, director of the MIT Senseable City Laboratory, and Cornell applied mathematics professor Steve Strogatz co-authored the study that crunches NYC taxi data -- they discuss what it can tell us about the future of getting around in NYC.


Carlo Ratti

Comments [20]

AMHess from Harlem

This was done with liveries and FHVs (to great success) during the last taxi strike. Also, people informally share taxis all the time. Of course it's more efficient to have more people in the cab and sometimes people want that; other times not.

Sep. 05 2014 03:50 PM
Blogcruiser from Manhattan

Not a good idea at all. Taxi companies identifying shareable areas - that sounds like a recipe for no taxis in other areas. It would make more sense to issue licenses to minivan operators to run their vans up and down the "shareable" areas ferrying passengers like the dolmuses of Turkey do. That sort of "fixed route" taxi share is popular in many third world countries and works like a sort of demand based bus service. Also, what's with the "negative impact taxis have on cities"? Taxis allow us New Yorkers to not own cars and think of the positive impact that has on the cities. I'm disappointed. MIT and Cornell professors with tunnel visions!

Sep. 04 2014 12:25 PM
Gregory A Butler from New York, NY

Why would I want to share a cab with a stranger?

Also why would we want to reduce the number of cabs?

Taxi drivers need jobs and their families need to eat - we shouldn't take bread out of the mouths of their children.

Sep. 04 2014 10:42 AM
EB from Manhattan

Riding the bus is cheaper than riding in a cab even if the cab ride is shared.

Sep. 04 2014 10:33 AM
Jean from Brooklyn

On Access-A-Ride we ride share. Very time-consuming. And what about wheelchair users like me? It's already impossible to get an accessible cab. We need to get places spontaneously too.

Sep. 04 2014 08:14 AM
Alex from Brooklyn

Taxi sharing makes sense on paper, as the research demonstrates. It can help reduce cost and congestion and make a city's cars even more useful. In reality, taxi sharing works in cases where people want it and in cases where they'd want it if they had the option. Think about a long airport taxi line.

But it comes down to thinking carefully about design, policy, and openness.

Design: having easy ways to do this is important. Apps like Bandwagon, which is focused on transit hubs and other places where there's a critical density of passengers, can help to elegantly match riders and also help them skip the line if they match up. See here:

Policy: the NY TLC has supported taxi sharing programs before, and taxi agencies everywhere can encourage sharing with smart rules and better fare structures, so that drivers earn a small surcharge. It's already thought that shared rides are longer, so they generate higher fares.

Openness: Open data, like the kind NYC is increasingly providing, is key to understanding our transportations systems (how many taxis do we really need in a city?). Sharing of passenger data is important for connecting passengers together. And a cultural openness to sharing helps too, bolstered by some basic etiquette. No one should be forced to share a cab, but we should have an easy option for doing it if we want to. And given all of the above, I think we'll increasingly want to.

Sep. 03 2014 11:47 AM
pephie from Greenpoint

Needed: more Ferries, Shared Taxis, better bike lanes and bridge crossings are all needed in Greenpoint and Williamsburg. It's increasingly hazardous for bikes and pedestrians due to already-built highrise apartment buildings and traffic is getting noticeably worse every month.
The string of new 30- & 40-story highrise construction along the East River on the way will further impact to northwest Brooklyn's traffic.

Sep. 03 2014 11:40 AM
Jeri from Washington Heights

Cab-sharing might be a good option, based on what I know about the German Mitfahrzentrale system, which is a private grouping system (sort of a post-your-name-on-the-board college-style ride sharing system).

But I wanted to pass on also what one cab driver told me: He said he thought that, given the horrible pay and working conditions for many cabbies, he thought that treating cab drivers as public servants, paying them through the City, and giving them reasonable hours, overtime, vacation days, etc., would be a good idea. So, instead of privatizing or challenging the public transit system, making the cabs a part of the public transit system. I'd be for that.

Sep. 03 2014 11:23 AM
Jenny from Hoboken

I HATE sharing a cab in Hoboken. You wait at the taxi line, and when the next cab comes up, you have to ask THEM where they are going, and they group you up. It's a flat fee, it takes longer, there is no benefit to it (they make more $$$ based on how many they can pack in (often 3 in the back, one in front) and it is nearly impossible to say no. I did once, and the driver complained the ENTIRE ride about how I was costing him money, and it was awful. AND, usually they take you home in the order you got in, but sometimes you'll have to ride all the way uptown just so he can drop you off on his way back 20 minutes later. I've had to share with obnoxious drunks, vomitous drunks, smelly people, creepy people, overly chatty people,and had to sit in the front seat with a gag-inducing hyper-cologned driver, and worse. I say NO to sharing, unless its to the airport!

Sep. 03 2014 11:18 AM
lo tech city from Westchester

When I lived in Berkeley, Ca and commuted to San Francisco, I'd line up with others to get a lift. The lift was free of charged, offered by another commuter, and in exchange for driving several random strangers, the driver got to use the HOV lane. The commute was quick and easy. (By the way, we didn't usually talk.)

Sep. 03 2014 11:09 AM
Dorothy from Msnhattan

I ride buses with strangers all the time. No big deal to share a cab. I'd like to share a taxi when I've waited 20 minutes for a bus that's supposed to run every 12minutes.

As the bus service becomes worse, taxi sharing become more attractive.

Sep. 03 2014 11:08 AM
BK from Hoboken

Does delta stat take into consideration that you might get into a cab more quickly if you share vs waiting for your own?
Also, at peak time at the hoboken Path station cabbies ask riders where they are headed and put two or three people in a cab. It doesn't save the rider money, but it uses the taxis more efficiently when you would otherwise have to wait longer to get a cab.

Sep. 03 2014 11:08 AM
Cathy from Hoboken, NJ

We are pretty much forced to share cabs in Hoboken, NJ when getting them from the PATH station. There is a the same flat fee whether or not you share the cab. It is annoying. Cabs waiting at the station reject people on line for one based on whether their locations are near each other. Then you share a cab with 2 or 3 other people which ALWAYS lengthens the ride about 10 to 15 minutes or so (and the town is a mile square). Supposedly you are legally allowed to insist on a cab of your own but in reality the cabbies reject single riders. And no one ever talks. Everyone stares at their phones.

Sep. 03 2014 11:08 AM
Jack from Manhattan

5 minutes? Obviously this guy's never taken a crosstown cab in mid-day midtown.

Sep. 03 2014 11:04 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Jitney cabs are nothing new. The were common in Britain and in Israel and even in the Boroughs there are vans that follow the bus route and pick people on the way. The question is, will the taxicab owners agree. They paid a lot of money for those medallions and if they forced to become jitneys, what will happen to their revenues?

Sep. 03 2014 11:02 AM

They've done this in DC for years and it works pretty well.

Sep. 03 2014 11:01 AM
Allison from NYC

I mean...why not just take the bus? Isn't this what public transport is for?

Sep. 03 2014 10:58 AM
Mia from Manhattan

I'm game! Who sets the shared fares and how does one regulate shorter distances of someone sharing a fare? How does a driver know where the second fare is going? Maybe there should be taxi satnds where people could gather hailing a cab going to similar destinations. A good idea but I think it needs a bit of regulation.

Sep. 03 2014 10:50 AM
Carl Ian Schwartz from Paterson, New Jersey

You'd think this were something new. Cab-sharing--with regular medallioned cabs--was common during World War II, when many cabbies were called up to service and the drivers were often women--and the vehicles used as cabs were lucky if they had Fluid Drive (NOT a fully-automatic transmission, but something offered by Chrysler that permitted upshifting without clutching once you got moving) and there was no power steering!

The most famous female cabbie of the period was Hildegarde Esterhazy, a character in Bernstein-Comden-Green's "On the Town" (1944) and portrayed by Nancy Walker.

Sep. 03 2014 10:25 AM

Was the research funded by Uber or Lyft????

Sep. 03 2014 10:15 AM

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