Humanizing Travel: How E-hail Apps Transform Stakeholder Relationships in Taxi Services

TitleHumanizing Travel: How E-hail Apps Transform Stakeholder Relationships in Taxi Services
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsCorinna Li, Jinhua Zhao
Conference NameTransportation Research Board 94th Annual Meeting
PublisherTransportation Research Board
Conference LocationWashington, D.C.
KeywordsCity planning, Human factors, Mobile applications, Quality of service, Regulation, Taxi services, Taxicab companies. Taxicab drivers

Efficiency benefits of the increasingly popular taxi-hailing (e-hailing) apps have been widely discussed - reduction of search time, convenience for passengers, and higher income for drivers. However the project proposes that there is a qualitative difference that e-hailing apps are engendering in the United States (U.S.) taxi industry above and beyond their quantitative impacts. E-hailing establishes direct connections between drivers and passengers, making ride requests person-to-person interactions in contrast with the prior impersonal one-time encountering. These connections, in turn, enable and generate more humanly sensible communications between both parties. At the neighborhood scale, the mutual trust between drivers and passengers empowers marginalized neighborhoods, which were often seen as dangerous and consequently underserved by taxi, to re-connect their residents to the city at large. This project aims to diagnose the stakeholder dynamics in six major U.S. taxi markets and identify the bottlenecks and weaknesses in the relationship structure; examine how e-hailing is poised to disrupt the status quo and transform these relationships; and analyze the implications on the quality of service, drivers' work environment, and the neighborhoods that they serve. The primary method of this project will be in-depth stakeholder interviews with key stakeholders in the industry - namely, taxi drivers, passengers, regulators, and app developers. The US taxi industry is at a crossroad. Regulators across the country are debating the fate of e-hailing at the moment - whether to allow it, regulate it, or promote it. By documenting the potential of e-hail apps in fostering a more humanizing and service-oriented taxi market, this research provides regulators with concrete evidence in their policy decisions, facilitates developers to improve their apps, and enlightens transportation professionals and urban planners on the deeper and qualitative impact of the new technology on accessible and livable communities.