CHICAGO (CBS) -- With taxis fighting their way back to the market as rideshare prices spike, an app has stepped in to offer flat, upfront fares for Chicago cabs.
The app Curb announced that starting Wednesday morning, it will begin providing taxi riders with a feature that lets commuters know the full price of their rides before their trips begin – as opposed to meters that run during the ride.
Curb said the upfront pricing option will be available to all Chicago taxis, so as to provide riders with an alternative to ridesharing apps such as Uber and Lyft. Curb added that upfront fares are designed to be similar to old-fashioned metered fares without surge pricing, and thus, taxi rides through Curb will often be cheaper than rideshare services.
Curb first introduced upfront pricing for New York City taxis last September, and reported that mobile bookings there have more than doubled compared with pre-pandemic highs.
"The feedback we've received from riders in NYC has been overwhelming, so expanding to more cities like Chicago was a natural next step," Jason Gross, Vice President of Mobile at Curb, said in a news release. "With the Chicago rollout of upfront fares, we're continuing to improve the rider experience with features that make riding in a taxi not only comparable to other forms of transportation but also appealing to today's consumer."
This development comes as some commuters have been driven back to taxis due to spiking rideshare prices.
"We're seeing opportunities for profits for taxi cab drivers that we haven't seen in a while," said DePaul transportation expert Joe Schwieterman.
He cites rideshare surge pricing and rising competitors – such as Curb itself.
Analysis published by New York-based data scientist Todd Schneider shows both rideshares and taxi rides fell dramatically and picked up when the city reopened. But while ridership grew across the board starting in March of 2021, the rate of that growth for taxis outpaced rideshares.
"Taxi cabs are positioned to sort of elbow their way into a market that's been tough the last decade," Schwieterman said.
He said this does not mean rideshare won't stay on top, but it does bode well for the cab industry.
"The gap has narrowed," he said. "Uber and Lyft are getting some much needed competition. Now they have a feisty competitor in the taxi cab industry to worry about. That's good news for everybody."
However, the driver shortage is a shared one, as is the longer than usual wait time. Chicago taxi companies like Yellow Cab say that as of mid June they only had 15% of their drivers back.
"Taxi cab companies, just like Uber and Lyft, are reporting driver shortages across the board. [Drivers] are hesitant to jump back in due to health risks, concerns and crime," said Schwieterman.
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