Courtesy of Weeels
The new smart phone app Weeels matches prospective taxi riders in New York City so they can share on cab fare.
The new smart phone app Weeels matches prospective taxi riders in New York City so they can share on cab fare. Courtesy of Weeels
Subways, buses, taxis — it's the way of life for most New Yorkers. But depending on the time of day and the part of the city, service can be spotty, infrequent or in the case of recent budget problems, cut altogether.
There's a new cab service that hopes to fill in some of those gaps, cut costs in half and perhaps help expand people's social networks — all from a mobile phone.
A Match Maker
It's a Saturday night and Lydia Bell, 25, is on the sidewalk in the bustling Hell's Kitchen area of Manhattan, N.Y. She's balancing a slice of pizza in one hand, and the other is tapping away on her iPhone.
She is trying to get to Brooklyn but can't afford the $25 cab fare. So she's trying out the iPhone app Weeels, which finds other prospective riders who are nearby and going to the same place. The matched-up riders can then share the cost of the ride.
Here's a list of more ride-share apps that might come in handy for the frugal and/or eco-conscious:
Carpooling: Sharing a ride has gone hi-tech. Ride Share Pro: This app says it "eases" ride sharing. RideRemedy: Users can create a carpool, share a cab, find a ride and help the environment. They can also calculate the money saved and CO2 emission reduction for each ride. PickupPal: Similar to online dating, this app matches drivers and passengers based on preferences and route. iRide Connect: This app matches travelers and commuters who want to share cabs or shuttles. GreenRiders: An app that is focused on environmentally friendly travel. Users can choose who they share a ride with, and there is an added bonus: It can be good for your social life. Matchride: A ride-sharing system Taxi Magic: A free service that allows users to book a taxi and track its arrival. Zipcar: An app that allows members to find and reserve Zipcars anywhere the vehicles are available. Users can also honk their Zipcar's horn with the app.
The app is only a couple months old, and so far it is growing by word of mouth.
Bell signed up as an early tester, and she isn't worried about sharing a backseat with a stranger.
"In general I don't think it's too much different than sitting next to some random stranger on the subway," she says.
After a match is found, Weeels gives Bell a meet-up address.
"I have these buttons that say 'car's not here,' 'everyone's here,' 'text partner' or 'partner info,'" Bell says. As she walks towards her ride-share partner, Bell says she will text the girl if she does not recognize her in the crowd.
There are some glitches. The meet-up spot is a dozen blocks away. It's 11 p.m., and Bell is walking down a street that she admits is a little creepy. And her iPhone battery dies. Finally, she meets her fellow rider.
Mass Transit Camaraderie
"I think at heart Weeels was conceived as a political project," says founder and CEO David Mahfouda.
The app was inspired by a trip Mahfouda, 27, took on the Trans-Siberian Railroad a few years ago. He liked the way strangers developed a sense of camaraderie while taking mass transit.
Back home, Mahfouda wanted to develop a way to move people more efficiently and focused on cabs. Weeels is also a part of StarLab, a non-profit think tank that promotes social transportation.
"The trick is how you maximize the utility of these vehicles that are already functional that are just not used well," Mahfouda says.
Weeels works with a cab service to offer pre-negotiated rates for each trip. The request comes into Weeels, and it gives riders the quote and the chance to ride-share.
Using An App 'Makes Sense'
And it's not the only alternative transit app to pop up. Zipcar is a service that lets members rent a car by the hour or day. And Taxi Magic will call you a cab.
"Increasingly, as we have our phones with us all the time, and we're understanding what it's like to be consistently and persistently connected, it makes a lot more sense if you could go ahead and use an application," says Christina Warren, who writes about Apple and mobile phones for the technology site Mashable.com.
Safety is still a main concern, though. Mahfouda says, with Weeels, user profiles let potential partners screen each other. And they can rate their experience afterward. Plans are in the works to show users how they're connected. Mahfouda says he thinks that will help people become a little braver.