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San Francisco MTA Board Approves Taxi Smartphone App

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A taxi cab crosses Market St. in San Francisco. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A taxi cab crosses Market St. in San Francisco. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors voted Tuesday to build a mobile phone application to connect passengers to taxis throughout the city.

The legislation would create an electronic taxi access network that would track data while forming an Internet accessible centralized dispatch service.

The board voted unanimously to amend the transportation code in part to allow the mobile phone service to be implemented, MTA spokesman Paul Rose said.

The legislation stems from the growing competition from other rideshare and car service programs, such as Lyft, Sidecar and Uber that take advantage of the connectivity of smartphone customers.

Support for the city’s proposed taxi application appears split within the cab industry, longtime driver Brad Newsham said.

At Tuesday’s board meeting, cab drivers filled board chambers and an overflow room at City Hall, with several voicing concerns about the proposed legislation.

Newsham is in favor of a smartphone app, calling it a “wonderful thing,” especially if it will improve customer experience.

However he said he understands qualms other drivers have about the agency collecting data through the service, such as the length of rides, pick-up and destination locations, fares and number of passengers of driver’s trips.

“A lot of cab drivers like myself have been clamoring for a dispatch system that would be integrated fleet-wide,” Newsham said.

On the other hand, Newsham said, “I am completely in support of the people who are concerned with privacy invasion.”

He said there is reluctance within the cab industry to give such detailed information about whereabouts and other activity.

Another contingent of cab drivers appear to be neutral on the technological changes, Newsham said.

Across the board, however, cabs are feeling the effects of smartphone-based companies, who take potential customers and do not have the same regulations and fees mandated by the city.

“When you have someone from the outside taking those fares,” Newsham said. “It’s really a problem.”

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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