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Seattle taxis upgrade in effort to compete with rideshares

(AP Photo)

For years, it seemed like Seattle taxis were content to operate using technology that hadn’t changed since Martin Scorsese’s 1976 film Taxi Driver. But with rideshares like Uber and Lyft siphoning off business for the past few years, it was probably time to make some updates.

Hop into a Yellow Cab these days and you will see some changes that include new smart readers that use GPS to dispatch, track, and toll rides. A smart taximeter uses GPS technology to dispatch and meter trips, and will give passengers more options when booking.

The Seattle Department of Finance says this will also help make taxis safer for riders and drivers, because it can track the cab’s exact location.

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Another change is one long-desired by customers who’ve long complained about their taxi experience: Updated and standardized credit card readers. All vehicles in Seattle Yellow Cab’s fleet will soon have new tablets and credit card readers installed in the back seat, with the meter displayed in the tablet.

“All of the Yellow Cabs are are having credit card readers installed, which we know has been a point of contention in the past if drivers have refused to accept a credit card, even though they had the means to take one,” Matthew Eng with the Seattle Department of Finance told KIRO Radio.

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The new system will make it easier to see what you’re actually being charged so it’s not a horrible surprise at the end of the ride, and will more efficiently give receipts as well. It’s all part of a two-year pilot program testing the use of smart taximeters. And while the GPS technology could be used for surge pricing, that’s currently not allowed in Seattle where cabs have fixed prices only.

Those prices are the only thing not being updated, so it’s still $2.60 for the base trip, 30 cents for each 1/9 mile and 50 cents for each minute of waiting time.

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