Loading articles...

Toronto taxis improving apps, service to compete with Uber

Last Updated Dec 7, 2015 at 3:38 pm EDT

If nothing else, the ongoing war between Toronto’s taxi companies and Uber is that it is forcing taxis to up their games.

Earlier this year, Beck Taxi and Royal Taxi upgraded their smart phone apps to be comparable with Uber’s services, including credit card payments, GPS tracking of vehicles and advance ordering.

And now comes news that Royal has partnered with French startup eCab, a taxi app that works and looks even more like Uber, and even offers premium levels of service at additional costs.

“The taxi industry has been changing a lot over the past three to five years,” Gilles Gomis, eCab’s regional head for North America told mobliesyrup in an interview.

Gomis believes the only way traditional cab companies can compete with Uber is to appeal to millennial customers on the platforms they are using, and “to use digital tools to overcome these new challenges, and to focus on quality and reliability.”

Opening the app shows how close Royal taxis are to your location, and you are able to order the closest vehicle. You can also advance order a cab. eCab Plus priority-dispatches a variety of vehicle types, and eCab VIP promises sedans and SUVs with a variety of special features.

Customers who use the basic eCab plan pay only the metered fare, while Plus and VIP members pay additional fees.

But according to the information from eCab, there are no surge prices based on events or availability, so while Uber may still prove the cheaper choice on quiet days, using eCab may be more cost-effective on busy nights.

Gomis said eCab plans to launch in four other Canadian cities in 2016 – Edmonton, Calgary, Ottawa and Montreal – and stresses the benefits of using the app for traditional cabs rather than going the Uber route ensures passengers are travelling in vehicles that are licensed, insured and regularly inspected.

But he agrees that until Uber arrived on the scene, most cab companies didn’t realize how poor their customer service was.

“Canada is an interesting place for the taxi industry,” he told mobliesyrup. “There are lots of actors focusing on quality, and they’re willing to focus on what the customer expects.”

According to The Toronto Star, Co-Op Taxi and Crown Taxi have signed a deal with Toronto-based Gata Labs for their apps, offering similar services, including the names and phone numbers of drivers assigned to pick them up.