Yellow Cab lets fares pay with plastic from back seat

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Yellow Cab has hastened the parade toward a cashless society with a device that allows customers to pay fares with a credit or debit card from the back seat.

While passengers still have the option to dig out a wad of bills, they can make an easier escape by swiping their plastic through a Taxi Magic console mounted on the back of the front seat.

The touch-screen device even offers suggestions for tips, including zero for those rare cases where the driver's comportment merits it.

Many of the 325 vehicles in the Yellow Cab and City Cab fleet have the devices, and Jamie Campolongo, president of Pittsburgh Transportation Group, the cab company's parent, expects all will be so equipped by the end of the month.

The consoles also provide wireless Internet service in the cabs, Mr. Campolongo said, and will show ads and a welcome message to be recorded by the mayor of Pittsburgh.

The machines are part of a technological renaissance as the company celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.

Customers can order cabs by text message or on Twitter, and Yellow Cab soon will roll out zTrip, an app that allows riders to hail cabs with their smartphones. It gives the dispatcher the user's precise location and lets the customer track the cab as it makes its way toward him.

The Taxi Magic consoles were installed in part because customers were uncomfortable handing their credit or debit cards to the drivers, Mr. Campolongo said.

"Nobody likes to let go of their card."

The technology "helps us go cashless," he said. "The less cash a driver has, the less of a target he is to be robbed."

It has had another fringe benefit -- drivers are getting bigger tips.

"They've actually gone up," driver David Farrell said.

"It makes getting in and out of the cab so much easier," he said.

While going all high-tech fancy on us, Yellow Cab also is trying to bring back the traditional method of hailing a cab, with the wave of an arm.

For some reason, that does not work well in Pittsburgh, as cabs tend to congregate outside hotels and not circulate, Mr. Campolongo said.

That has made it more difficult for visitors to find them.

Campaigns with the slogans "Hail, yes" and "What the hail" are planned, and drivers will be encouraged to move around the city more, he said.

"We just want to get the cab company performing at the top of its game," Mr. Campolongo said.

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Jon Schmitz: or 412-263-1868. Visit the PG's transportation blog, The Roundabout, at Twitter: @pgtraffic.


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