Better late than never.
In an attempt to keep up with the likes of Uber and Lyft, Seattle’s largest taxi fleet has released its own mobile app that allows customers to hail a ride with a push of a button.
With the help of a vendor, Seattle Yellow Cab developed both a booking app and a new dispatch system to help match its 560 drivers with passengers more efficiently.
The app, available on iOS and Android, is similar to what Uber and Lyft offer in many ways. It lets you see available taxis on a map, book a ride, and track the driver’s location in real-time. You can’t pay via the app quite yet, but backseat terminals offer three options to complete payment.
However, there are a few features that Uber does not offer. For example, passengers can book through the app, but pay with cash once their ride is completed. You can also book rides in advance at a pre-scheduled time. Finally, drivers do not use the app — the new dispatch software is integrated into their existing front terminals.
Users won’t have to pay an additional booking fee for using the app, which is an advantage over the for-hire vehicles in town using Flywheel that charge $1 to passengers for every ride booked through the app.
Since taxi companies must still adhere to per-mile rates set by the city, Yellow Cab’s app does not have “surge pricing” — a controversial technique used by Uber and Lyft that increases the price of a ride when demand is high.
Other taxi fleets offer similar apps in Seattle. Orange Cab has an iOS and Android app, while STITA uses Taxi Magic. Private for-hire services like Crown Car have also recently debuted their own apps.
Uber and Lyft first spearheaded the hail-a-ride-with-an-app movement and began conducting business in Seattle in 2013, quickly gaining popularity, despite the city deeming their services illegal. The City Council ended up legalizing these “transportation network companies” this past summer.
Editor’s note: A previous reference to the city restricting taxi companies from offering a hailing app in 2012 was removed.