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Sunday, July 14, 2024
HomeNewsLocal newsNew Phone App Aims to Improve Taxi Transportation in the V.I.

New Phone App Aims to Improve Taxi Transportation in the V.I.

Two phones sit side by side displaying (left) the map passengers would see after downloading the app, and (right) the home screen which prompts passengers to sign in.

A new phone application named Caricab has been launched for V.I. residents, the first of its kind, creating communication between the 3,000 taxicab owners licensed by the V.I. Taxi Commission and those on island looking for a ride.

David Isles, the app’s creator, was born and raised on St. Thomas. “I have designed the app around the uniqueness of the area,” he said.

Unlike traditional ride-sharing apps, Isles said he created Caricab to work exclusively with the taxicab drivers in the V.I. While other ride-sharing apps allow most licensed individuals to apply to become drivers, only taxicab drivers approved by the Taxi Commission are permitted to sign up and apply for driving positions with Caricab.

Isles said he has worked with the Taxi Commission and the V.I. Department of Tourism on the app for 18 months and began recruiting drivers a week ago. Isles said three or four drivers have signed up; once 50 drivers have signed up, the app will become active and usable for consumers.

“I thought it was something the islands needed,” Isles said. “As tourism goes, so goes the economy of the Virgin Islands. I want to see us thrive and become the jewel of the Caribbean we should be.”

During a senate hearing on May 20, Horace Graham, chairman of the Taxicab Commission,  spoke directly about Caricab.

“We have actually engaged individuals in the ride-sharing industry to provide apps that speak specifically to the taxi industry. The challenge has been for us that when people think of ride-sharing they tend to think outside of the taxi industry. Our goal in the Taxi Commission was not to try to break the industry, but in some ways support it by creating tools for them to grow,” Graham said.

Taxi driver James Penn, who was also present at the hearing, explained that he had concerns about how payments from passengers would be collected, and associated fees.

Downloading the app is free to drivers, residents and visitors alike. Isles said once passengers request a ride, payment is secured from the passenger electronically and then direct deposited into the driver’s bank account at midnight each evening. He also said any associated transaction fees are charged to the consumer, not the driver.

Graham said instead of the government or the Taxi Commission being the ones to spearhead and implement a system, entrepreneurs in the V.I. should be contracted to do so.

At present, there is no central number to call to get a ride in the Virgin Islands. Isles said Caricab will give a central contact point “so the chances of getting a ride are way higher.” He said that the app will show what taxis are available and where they are located on island, similar to traditional ride-sharing apps.

“You can watch the cabs as they drive around,” he said.

Once the app is fully operational and 50 drivers have applied for positions, Isles hopes to hear community feedback on how to improve the app’s functionality. “All apps break or have bugs to work out in the beginning,” he said. “This will be no different, but I hope to hear what the community has to say about it and create something for the islands that has been needed for a long time.”

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  1. You can call V.I. Taxi Association and get a taxi. They have radio dispatch and the drivers call in their location and the dispatcher assigns the fare to the closest driver. It was interesting listening to the calls one night when I was on the way home from the airport one night after a flight delay.

    People complain about the high cost of taxi transportation, especially for groups of more than 2. Uber became popular because the fares are usually much cheaper than traditional taxi fares, and Uber and Lyft were subsidized by venture capitalists which allowed them to operate with substantial losses for years.

    I don’t see the incentive for driver or passenger to use the app except that you don’t need cash. You didn’t mention how passengers pay. Will the app store credit card info or will the app accept PayPal, Apple Pay, or other payment options? Will there be processing fees? If so, who pays them and how much?

  2. While I applaud this effort, I am very skeptical that this app will reach a critical mass of licensed taxi drivers needed to actually make it work. I’ve seen the ads in the Daily News for drivers. The article mentions that 3 or 4 have signed up. To make this work efficiently, you will need hundreds of drivers. My suspicion is that the vast majority of taxi drivers will adopt this technology. Either because they do not trust it, want to remain all cash, or simply lack abilities with technology. Let’s remember that they don’t even take credit cards currently. Now we want this group of legacy drivers to find people by GPS/Google maps for pick up. Will this app allow riders to rate their experience for all see like Uber/Lyft? You can bet your bottom dollar it won’t.

    What we need is a new breed of taxi drivers and competition in the industry. ALLOW UBER AND LYFT!!

  3. Nobody is stopping Uber from operating in the territory. Uber started without permission in most cities in their start up days, and won the loyalty of passengers who joined the fight to legitimize ride sharing.

    There’s a good article on how to bring uber to your/our area. The recommendations are search for drivers in your area to show demand, and have drivers apply so the area can have drivers. There’s no guarantee, however, that uber will then be available.

  4. Calling in to dispatch to get a cab is old school and can at times get a bit frustrating. We must admit there are better and more efficient ways to accomplish the same task. While I don’t believe everything old is no good, I also believe that technology gives us a path to better efficiency, being more consumer friendly, and of course lest not forget convenience. Common folks, if we don’t stop fighting the future, we are going to get left behind.