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Friday, August 7, 2009

Cabbies roll with VeriFone terminals

In 2007, complaints and recriminations about VeriFone terminals integrated into New York City and Philadelphia taxis forced a two-day cabbie strike. But times have changed. VeriFone worked to eliminate bugs in the system and acceptance of paying for cab fare with plastic has increased among cabbies and consumers.

And VeriFone reported in August 2009 that over 1,000 payment terminals have been successfully implemented in Boston-area cabs.

VeriFone Transportation Systems, a joint venture between VeriFone Holdings Inc. and taxiTronics, installed ATM-style, interactive systems into the Boston cabs. The terminals are based on VeriFone's MX870 multimedia payment systems and are integrated with VTS' wireless technology to allow mobile acceptance of credit and debit cards. Additional features include dispatch automation and voice guided navigation.

Good to go

John Ford, President and Owner of Boston's Top Cab Inc. and City Cab, said the systems, which have been in place since June 2009, are working well. "So far, so good – no real problems, no real complaints," he said.

According to Ford, passengers recognize the benefits of paying for longer cab rides with plastic. Instead of taking short cab rides to train stations as first legs in longer trips, passengers are opting to make the whole journey in the cab and paying with their cards.

Ford said, "They now see the credit card machine and say to the cab driver, 'How much to go to my [final] destination?' And they get a price and they end up doing it."

The cabbies are happy, too, he noted. Longer trips mean higher fares. Additionally, Ford has seen an increase in ridership in the over 500 cabs he operates, with people who wouldn't use taxis because they didn't accept plastic now hopping into card-accepting cabs.

Ford said Top Cab and City Cab had been working with VTS on the terminals since February 2009. After completion of a successful pilot program, Ford now reports that his entire fleet of cabs is equipped with the VeriFone solution.

Red to green

The present circumstance seems far from the problems VeriFone encountered in September 2007 when East Coast cabbies staged a two-day strike to protest the POS terminals integrated into their cabs.

Reports varied as to how many of New York's approximately 44,000 licensed cab drivers and Philly's 1,600 medallioned drivers participated. But it was enough to generate considerable attention on the street and in the media.

The drivers filed a list of complaints about the new technology, including:

  • "Glitches" in the system, which caused delays and other problems in dispatching
  • The noise and distraction of the passenger screens over which drivers had no control
  • Transaction fees of up to 5 percent assessed on drivers
  • Long waits for payments

At the time, Pete Bartolik, spokesman for VTS, said, "Not all technical issues are equipment-related. Some may be affected by the cars' mechanical problems, driver training and drivers' [unwillingness] to adapt to change. ... Finally, data from our implementation in Philadelphia shows that drivers benefit from higher tips when customers use card payment." This mirrors reports from the restaurant industry which show measurably higher tips for wait staff from patrons using credit cards rather than paying cash. end of article

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