Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Credit Cards and Chicago Taxi Cabs, Together At Last

Photo credit: Anthonia Akitunde

While I still think Chicago is the best American city, one thing New York has going for it are the touch screen consoles located in the back of every cab. Passengers can watch local programming, see the route the driver is taking to their destination via Google Maps and, most importantly, pay for their trip with a credit or debit card.

For years many Chicagoans who wanted to pay for a cab ride with a credit card were met with hostility, claims the driver's machine "wasn't working" or plain refusal of service. A report in the Chicago Tribune yesterday said this gap in service was the number three complaint regarding Chicago taxi service and the number one complaint in the taxi industry.

Thankfully plans to install those consoles in up to 2,600 Chicago cabs are underway. Only 30 cabs currently have the technology installed. The article did not say when the installations would begin.

After hearing the news through Chicagoist, I asked my cab driver this morning why drivers were so weary of accepting credit cards (after he initially said he didn't take cards only to change his tune).

"If you give me a credit card, I have to take it," said the driver of Yellow Cab 4378 (his license was covered up).

But, he went on, it can take a while for the cab's credit card reader to authorize a transaction. If the purchase does not go through long after the ride, the driver has to pay for it out of pocket.

Also credit card companies take 5 percent of the fare total whenever a card is used, cutting into the driver's profits, according to the Tribune's report.

While the new technology won't address that concern, drivers will benefit from placing control in the passengers' hands. Officials predict drivers will less likely be targeted for crime since they'll have less money. Because of the gratuity calculator included in the console, drivers saw a 7 percentage point increase in tips, from 15 percent when passengers paid in cash versus 22 percent with their cards.

As for us passengers? The ride back home after a long night just got a hell of a lot easier.

No comments: