The taxi industry now has an answer to UberPool and LyftLine: an app that matches up riders for trips at reduced fares in yellow cabs from LaGuardia and JFK airports.
By the end of the year the service will be available anywhere in the city, via the Bandwagon app or a tab on Arro and Curb apps, which work with all cabs in the city. Destination match-ups will more easily be made during periods of high demand.
The airport service—a joint venture between Brooklyn-based startup Bandwagon and taxi owner-backed CMT Group, which operates Arro—was announced Wednesday. CMT manages the payment systems and backseat TVs in about 8,000 cabs, 6,700 of which are yellow cabs, or half the city's fleet. Bandwagon's integration with rival payment-service provider Verifone—operator of Curb—is in the works.
The airport service, which has been developed in cooperation with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, requires riders to go through several steps, including inputting the cab's medallion number. But the users are offered two enticements in return: They get a cheaper ride than passengers going solo and they can skip ahead to the taxi stand's priority line.
Bandwagon calculates the fares. Each rider pays in proportion to the distance needed to arrive at their destination. Although there is a flat $5 fee, the company says fares are typically 25% to 30% less than for a regular ride.
"This is about helping New York City taxis compete with UberPool and Lyft Line and reducing congestion on city streets," said Bandwagon founder and CEO David Mahfouda.
So far, the service is available only at selected terminals at the two airports and during peak use periods: Monday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday evenings, from 5 o'clock until midnight.
Customers lined up at the taxi stand text their destination to a Bandwagon number. If a match comes up, they move to the priority line, and a Bandwagon agent swipes their credit cards.
The company, which is based in NYU's Urban Future Lab, has been piloting the service since September. Even without a taxi payment integration it has facilitated 10,000 rides, according to Mahfouda.
The service is attractive to drivers, since they'll make more money on the extended trips.
"This is something we have to do," said Michael Epley, product manager for Arro. "I'm sure a chunk of people will say it's not for them. And others will be totally comfortable splitting a ride with a stranger."