Taxi apps not user-friendly, passengers say

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Taxi apps not user-friendly, passengers say

Kim Min-young, who was waiting for a taxi around Jonggak station in Jongno District, Seoul, after midnight, waited more than 50 minutes before finally catching a ride.

“Kakao Taxi wouldn’t respond no matter how many times I sent a request,” said Kim, “and most other taxis that passed had the ‘occupied’ light on.”

Kakao launched a taxi-hailing app similar to Uber called Kakao Taxi last year, promising the service would make it easier to catch taxis.

Numerous other companies run similar apps, while Kakao Taxi remains the number one operator as of September with 240,000 out of 280,000 national taxi drivers and 11 million passengers registered on its app.

Passengers, however, complain that taxi drivers can now choose customers they want to take. Taxi apps require passengers’ pick-up location and destination, which drivers use to refuse customers for short distance or rides to the suburbs.

Middle-aged customers, who are largely unfamiliar with taxi apps, find it more difficult nowadays to take taxis, as well.

Taxi drivers, in addition, are found to be using more tactics to reject particular customers.

“Passengers going a long distance, through areas with little traffic and ending in populated destinations where I can take another passenger on the way back, these earn me more money,” said a 50-year-old taxi driver in Seoul, adding, “such passengers are always wanted, so I park my car and stare at the incoming requests.”

“During the so-called peak time from 11 p.m.,” another taxi driver in his 40s said, “I purposefully put on the ‘occupied’ sign and wait to take the best passengers.”

SK Telecom revealed that, as of late September, only 47 percent of all customers who use its T-map taxi app successfully hail taxis. Kakao refused to show its success rate for passenger requests.

Public safety is another concern with taxi apps, as drivers use them while driving.

A passenger of one taxi in Seoul said, “The taxi apps’ alarm sounds were distracting, not to mention how nervous I was when the driver kept using his phone to check his app while driving.”

“If we wait too long after requests, passengers simply cancel them,” Kim Sung-yong, a taxi driver in Seoul, explained, “so most drivers rush to customers, going as far as making illegal U-turns.”

BY HAM JONG-SUN [kim.yuna1@joongang.co.kr]
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