Humanizing Travel: How E-hail Apps Transform Stakeholder Relationships in the U.S. Taxi Industry

Though the quantitative efficiency benefits of the increasingly popular taxi-hailing (e-hail) apps are well-known, the apps’ potential to engender qualitative impact on the industry has not been investigated. This study centers on in-depth interviews with 35 taxi drivers, passengers, regulators, company staff, professional association leaders, and e-hail developers in New York, San Francisco, and Boston. Drawing from insights from the three cities, the authors examine e-hail’s potential to disrupt the stakeholder dynamics within a typical large-city taxi market, considering the resulting implications on the quality of service and drivers’ work environment. In doing so, the study also exposes key bottlenecks in the industry’s relationship landscape. The study concludes that e-hailing, by directly connecting drivers and passengers, can reduce rent-seeking behaviors of taxi dispatchers and humanize the previously impersonal relationships between the front and the back seats. Thanks to the user account and review features, e-hailing can also enhance the accountability and sense of safety for drivers and passengers, while enabling their interactions to be monitored and managed at an unprecedented level of sophistication. By documenting e-hail apps’ potential for fostering a more humanizing and service-oriented taxi market, this research seeks to provide regulators with concrete evidence in their policy decisions, and to broaden the general thinking on ways to evaluate new smartphone technologies beyond the traditionally-assessed efficiency benefits.

  • Supplemental Notes:
    • This paper was sponsored by TRB committee ADB20 Effects of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) on Travel Choices.
  • Corporate Authors:

    Transportation Research Board

    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001
  • Authors:
    • Li, Corinna
    • Zhao, Jinhua
  • Conference:
  • Date: 2015


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Features: Figures; References;
  • Pagination: 17p
  • Monograph Title: TRB 94th Annual Meeting Compendium of Papers

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01551823
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: 15-0680
  • Files: TRIS, TRB, ATRI
  • Created Date: Jan 27 2015 11:24AM