Catching a cab

UMSL researcher Ray Mundy will be studying the local taxi system in depth, to see what works and what doesn’t. The P-D has the story.

Apparently, the Metropolitan Taxicab Commission’s hypothesis is that the 1,000 cabs currently on the road in St. Louis are too many for our market.

I take cabs pretty frequently–once or twice a month, sometimes more. (Hey, I don’t have a car but I do have a life! Sometimes a gal wants to hang out well into the wee hours without worrying about catching the last bus, or safely traverse the partially sidewalkless path to the Amtrak station with four pieces of luggage when there’s freezing rain outside.) Gotta say, too many cabs has never been a problem for me. In fact, generally the problem is quite the opposite: “Sorry I’m late, but it took forty minutes for me to get a damn cab and another twenty to get here.”

StL doesn’t have the population density or the wealth density that Chicago does, but oh MAN when I’m up in Chi, do I ever covet the way that Chicagoans can just flag down a taxi at any hour! I’ve flagged taxis in Chicago at 12 noon, 2 am, 3 am, 6am…. Again, I can’t see the density of cabs it takes to have flaggability being supported by StL, but hot damn would it be nice. Til that day comes, my advice for anyone wanting to catch a cab in StL:

1) Have the numbers of at least two cab companies in your phone, just in case. Even if you have a car, you never know what crazy thing could happen to you. I usually call ABC Checker first–the upside is that they take debit and credit cards, but the down side is that they require exact addresses, and will not just come to, say, the northwest corner of Grand and Laclede.
2) Call as much in advance as you can! Calling a few hours early to request your 4pm pick-up will probably save you much headachery later. This is especially true if you’ll be traveling at rush hour.
3) Try to insist on giving the dispatcher your phone number, in case the cab gets there early/late/etc, so they can call you and let you know it’s there rather than just driving off. This makes life easier for everybody.
4) If you realize you won’t need a cab you already called for, calling to cancel is polite.
5) Tipping your driver is also polite. Those guys can work a lot without making much, and they usually have to buy their own gas.
6) If you’re ever on foot and without phone, head to a place where lots of tourists congregate. Semi-recently when I missed the last bus up to my neighborhood from Downtown, I walked over to the clump of hotels around the Old Courthouse and voila! within moments I had myself a cab. If you aren’t near any tourist magnets, a bartender or grocery store worker might be able to call a cab for ya if you ask nicely.

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Published in: on December 20, 2007 at 8:14 pm  Comments (3)  
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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. “StL doesn’t have the population density or the wealth density that Chicago does, but oh MAN when I’m up in Chi, do I ever covet the way that Chicagoans can just flag down a taxi at any hour!”

    Not all of us–I had to miss a couple of parties in the past because the cab company I called wouldn’t bother to send anyone down to the south side. And when I hail one to go home, the driver always gets this look like “You want me to take you where?

    I’ll try to remember no. 3. I never though of that before.

  2. I think StL does have the density needed for better cab service. There are a lot of people here going places – you can see this judging from all the traffic. The problem is that everyone relies on private auto ownership – maybe because cabs (and buses)are inconvenient here. But of course the cab companies don’t want to increase service if they can’t see a definite need. In reality we do need services that are not currently offered – reliable and convenient transportation apart from the personal automobile. At present we have sub-standard services offered, which most won’t bother with unless they have to. (The Grand bus, which is the most consistently crowded bus from my experience, is also the most frequently running bus. Supply can create demand.)

  3. Jennifer, I never tried to catch a cab on the South Side of Chicago before, so I was unaware. That sucks! I’ve done okay catching cabs on the North Side of StL, but I do live pretty close in to Downtown. I wonder if I’d have more problems if I lived in a more far-flung, rougher area. There was one time elsewhere on the North Side of StL when I was trying to catch a cab in a somewhat isolated industrial area at night…. The cabbie stopped a block away and sized me up before driving up to me. When I got in, he said “If I got here and saw that you were a man, I was going to drive away.” Eesh.

    And I do get a lot of curious “YOU live HERE?” from cabbies, but it usually seems to lead to discussion about race and the city. Then they ask the second appearance-related thing they always want to know: “Why the pink hair?” Heh.

    Kara, true, if the service was better usage would be better. If I could reliably flag a cab even just in the confines of the heart of Downtown (say, even just on Washington Avenue), I’d probably take cabs more. And don’t even get me started on bus frequency, ugh…. I don’t WANT to learn to drive, buuuut…. 😦


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