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September 23, 2015

Philadelphia taxis prepare to launch hailing app

In competition with new ride-sharing services, taxis rolling out GPS-based hailing system

Taxis Apps
01302015_taxis_philadelphia_AP.jpg Mark Stehle, File/AP

Taxi drivers in Philadelphia chat while waiting for another fare.

Philadelphia taxi cabs have been feeling the pressure of alternative rideshare services like Uber and Lyft, but the cabs are getting ready to launch a service that will give them arguably the most advantageous tool at their rivals' disposal.

Starting in October, 1,400 of Philadelphia's 1,600 cabs will debut Way2Ride, a GPS-based hailing system powered by Verifone, which administers payments for most of the city's cabs, according to the Philadelphia Business Journal.

The app will work similar to the way Uber and Lyft operate, with automatic payments processed after the ride is completed. While Way2Ride won't apply surge rates, it will charge a fee for hailing a cab with the app and make tipping optional.

The new service comes as Uber remains locked in a battle with the Philadelphia Parking Authority, which sued the San Francisco-based company and imposed a $300,000 fine over its alleged illegal operation in the city. Late last year, 45 Philadelphia taxi companies also filed a racketeering lawsuit against Uber, claiming the company engages in unfair competition against medallion owners who abide by state laws.

Ride-sharing services are technically outlawed in the city of Philadelphia, per state regulations set by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. Pennsylvania Senator Cameron Bartoletta (R-46), however, introduced a bill last month that would establish a broader statewide regulatory framework for these companies, addressing issues of consumer protection, insurance coverage and vehicle safety requirements.

If adopted, the legislation would extend to Philadelphia and remove the ambiguity that currently exists.

Way2Ride is currently in use by cabs in New York City, Boston, Miami, District of Columbia and Las Vegas.