Wednesday, July 06, 2005

An innovative idea for Metro LRT/BRT stations: taxis

Tom Delay called for Metro to get innovative, so here's my suggestion to really boost ridership on the existing light rail line and future rail and BRT lines: taxis. Too many places are just too far to walk from the stations (like the Rice Village), and many people would be happy to pay a few bucks for a quick trip a mile or two from the station to their final destination, especially if the weather's not so great for walking (hot, cold, raining... did I mention hot?).

Here's how it should work: when I buy my ticket at the station with the touch-screen terminal, I should have the option of telling it what station I'm getting off at and that I'd like a taxi waiting there when I arrive. The terminal could automatically send the dispatch to the taxi companies via some sort of allocation system (ideally to the company with an idle taxi nearest to that station), along with my estimated time of arrival at that station. I'm thinking it might charge me a small fee for the request, maybe 50 cents, to prevent false/prank requests and no-shows.

This simple feature could tip a lot of borderline trips ("do I drive or take the rail?") towards rail if I know I can easily arrange for a taxi to finish the last leg of my trip. And I'd think the taxi companies would love the extra revenue beyond the usual hotel/airport business.


At 12:00 AM, July 07, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've always wondered about a jitney-based transit system. There would still be buses on heavily traveled routes, but most routes would be serviced by jitneys that would cover certain zones or general service routes, dropping off passengers at or near their destinations. Cost would be higher for the customer, but so would service levels. The transit authority would provide a per-customer subsidy comparable to the current subsidy per trip. Of course, jitneys were widespread in Houston once upon a time (1920s, I think).

Is this being done elsewhere? Is there any reason why this couldn't work?

At 7:33 AM, July 07, 2005, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Jitneys are popular in the developing world, but I don't know of anywhere in the US.

Unfortunately, politically, I don't see Metro giving up any of their budget to subsidize jitneys. I think the model will have to be: if you want to go cheap/subsidized, you have to transfer to local bus lines. If you're willing to pay a little more, you might use unsubsidized local taxi or jitney service.

That said, I'm a big advocate of opening up long-distance point-to-point commuter bus service to private providers with a Metro subsidy. There's a large public interest in reducing freeway congestion by getting people into HOV buses.

At 8:47 AM, July 08, 2005, Blogger Kevin Whited said...

Metro probably isn't the problem with jitneys.

Taxi companies don't like them and have fought jitneys in Houston for years.

It's too bad, because jitneys would be a much better solution than taxis in some circumstances (such as the one you present).

At 9:51 PM, July 31, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like this taxi idea!


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