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Jun 30, 2015 11:43 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Local Cabs Copy Uber's Better Mousetrap

Following the latest technology, Mark Ripolone, owner of Ditch Plains Taxi in Montauk, is offing his customers an app to order cabs. KYRIL BROMLEY
Jun 30, 2015 3:08 PM

As the old saying goes: If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

Spurred by the popularity of Uber’s mobile phone app-based taxi service, and complaints about the company’s maverick disregard for local taxi laws and practices, several local cab companies—three in Montauk, one in East Hampton, and one in Southampton—are launching their own cab-hailing phone apps this week.

“Last summer, I saw how popular Uber was and how many regulations their drivers were breaking, and I decided that the local taxis needed to do something of their own,” Bryan DaParma, owner of Hometown Taxi in Southampton, said last week. “We started branding an app strictly for the Hamptons that will be open to everyone on the whole South Fork—any cab driver.”

Mr. DaParma’s new app, Hamptons Taxi, was activated for both Apple OS and Android smartphones early this week, and he expects to have all of his company’s 85 taxis working through the service by the weekend.

In the wake of uproar over Uber shutting down its app service in East Hampton Town because of new town licensing regulations that landed nearly two dozen of its drivers in a courtroom, some Montauk cab companies have banded together and launched a hailing app this week as well. Ditch Plains Taxi, Moko Taxi and The End Taxi all joined Gata Hub, a Canadian company that pairs mobile phone GPS technology with businesses’ internet sites, including taxi companies.

And in East Hampton, Taxi One, a new app-based taxi and limousine service, also will be available this week through the Gata Hub app.

“Everyone was upset when the whole Uber situation unfolded, but mostly just because they’ve gotten used to the technology,” Ditch Plains Taxi owner Mark Ripolone said last week. “You get reliant on something like that, you want to have it in the palm of your hand. Nobody cares about the company Uber. So we saw the opportunity.”

Both Gata Hub and Hamptons Taxi boast the ability for users to order a taxi to their location and to see the actual location of the taxi that will be picking them up on a street map as it approaches.

Both also say their apps will allow riders to know the fares they will be charged before they get in the cab. Varying and unpredictable fares for trips within or between South Fork hamlets have long been a point of criticism targeting local cab companies. The operators of those companies linked to the new apps say that the technology will eliminate the question marks—much the way the Uber app does, despite frequent accusations of price gouging.

The apps also will make what the operators say are some improvements on the Uber model, like offering access to different companies’ cars and freeing riders to pay for the ride with cash or multiple credit cards.

“[Local taxi companies] have got a bad reputation, so with this app people can see for themselves what we charge,” Mr. Ripolone said. “That’s where the technology is going. You can see the cab, you can see the cab company, you can see the price. And you don’t have to link your credit card information.”

The Uber app model requires that a car be ordered from a phone that already has a credit card linked to it, and the fare is automatically charged. The convenience of having the payment arranged has been a popular one with Uber fans, but Mr. Ripolone said that it causes complications when multiple people share a cab and want to split the fare. So both of the new taxi apps will allow the riders to pay in the car, with either credit cards or cash.

The Hamptons Taxi app does allow customers to link a credit card to the app for automatic payment of the fare, and Mr. Ripolone said the Gata Hub app will have that feature soon as well.

Mr. DaParma said that Hamptons Taxi fares will be set at $10 for the first two miles and $2.50 per mile after that, a rate he says will keep fares below the premiums that Uber’s cars and SUVs charge for trips between the hamlets.

The rates for Montauk taxis vary, and Mr. Riplone said the app will show riders what cabs are available, how soon they can get there, and how much they charge—allowing customers to comparison shop right on their phones.

“It’s a very good idea—Uber is taking a lot of their business, so they are going to have to catch up if they want to compete with it,” said Marco Langione, who was visiting East Hampton this week and said he uses Uber in New York City frequently. “It’s only a matter of time. Everyone is going to have to have the phone technology if they want to compete, even in New York City.”

Some others on the streets of East Hampton and Southampton said that the local cab companies will have to do more than just link their cabs to apps if they want to outpace Uber, at least in those markets where Uber is still operating.

“The Uber cars are really much nicer,” Manhattanite Christine Lorensen said on Monday in East Hampton. “But when you need a cab at 1 a.m. … the convenience is the most important thing, I guess.”

Mr. Ripolone said he has been appealing to other Montauk cab companies to join the service too. “The more cabs we have available through [the app], the more convenient it will be for customers, and they’ll be more likely to use it,” he said.

The Hamptons Taxi app, Mr. DaParma said, is intended to be a regionwide service that can be used to link riders to drivers in both Southampton Town and East Hampton Town. He said the Hamptons Taxi platform will be made available to any other taxi companies or independent drivers to link their services too.

“It serves all of us to not limit it to just one company, because if we have a high wait time then that hurts the customers,” he said. “The big difference between us and them is that [Uber] has, maybe, 20 cars—that’s it. We’ve got 85. And if it’s open to other companies, we’re going to have much more availability and quicker service.”

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Amazing! Hamptons companies embracing change and advancement rather than simply hounding local officials to ban the progress...Now if we could just get local restaurants and gyms to keep up! How about some clean bathrooms?!
By Mouthampton (439), Southampton on Jul 2, 15 11:22 AM
Good luck guys. Make money!
By Summer Resident (251), Southampton N.Y. on Jul 4, 15 1:18 AM