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Passengers, cabbies hail mobile taxi apps

By Xu Xiao  (China Daily)

13:12, March 25, 2013

Commuters flag down a cab during the morning rush hour at Beijing's Dongzhimen area on Jan 16. Use of new mobile apps could help cab drivers increase their income while providing convenience to passengers. [Zou Hong / China Daily]

The new use of mobile apps for calling taxis in some big Chinese cities could help cabdrivers increase their income while providing greater convenience to passengers.

A few clicks on a computer or smartphone using the free app called Didi Taxi could ease the vexation of long waits by the roadside or stressful waving to hail a cab in rush hour.

When a customer selects "call a cab now" on the app, any driver of a nearby taxi equipped with the same software can answer the passenger's call and arrive quickly on the scene.

In an online discussion, one user recalled that when she first booked a cab using the Didi Taxi app, a driver answered in just five seconds.

But in peak periods or places, users have to bid for a taxi by offering tips, usually ranging from 5 to 30 yuan.

Many clients say they are willing to pay extra for a cab if it arrives quickly.

One Beijing taxi driver told China Daily using the app helped him greatly reduce his downtime and increase his daily income by 20 percent.

Official statistics show the app is used in more than 5,000 cabs in Beijing, but the actual number might be much higher.

There are more than 4,000 requests for cabs on average every day through the system. Some 70 percent of them lead to deals.

Besides Beijing, Didi Taxi is also used in Guangzhou and Shenzhen and will be rolled out in more cities.

Before the app appeared, the only way to book a taxi was through reservation hotlines, but only a handful of Beijing's 200 taxi companies have them. And the city now has some 70,000 taxis on the road.

The hotlines are often difficult for both taxi drivers and passengers. Customers complain that taxis are not there when they need them, while cabbies say their vacant rate reaches some 30 percent.

But the market numbers are huge. Throughout the year, Beijing's taxis provide 700 million rides, 35 times the city's population.

Earning too little

Despite the enormous demand and the needed service they provide, many taxi drivers struggle to make a living.

Local newspapers report that a Beijing taxi driver pays an average of 5,157 yuan a month to lease a cab from the company. After also paying for fuel and maintenance, the monthly cost is about 9,000 yuan.

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