Has Sioux Falls looked into Omaha’s taxi procedures?

I don’t all the details of how Omaha runs their cab service, but I do know that you can call a ‘central’ dispatch, and they will send an available cab from registered companies to you. And from my experience, it is fast and safe. You also have the option of calling individual companies dispatch.

The city is considering changes to the cab rules in SF. Some are silly, like telling a single car owner and driver he or she has to run 24/7, basically eliminating single owner companies. This is wrong for several reasons, most importantly it goes against free enterprise, if someone wants to run their cab service 2 hours a day or 12 hours a day, that is their business, as long as they are following other city ordinances pertaining to cabs.

I have argued that the city needs a ‘central’ dispatch like Omaha. Any cab company can register with the dispatch (for a fee) and when they are available be put on the rotation docket. Now some people are afraid of ‘safety’, well mostly Councilor Erpenbach, who apparently only rides in cabs if she knows the driver, nice small town mentality. Drivers have to be licensed and certified, secondly, if you really need to know the cab company that is going to pick you up, you can call them directly. Central dispatch would be for peak hours when most people don’t care who picks them up. It would also be fair (because the companies would be in rotation and take turns), and from my experience fast.

This isn’t rocket science, but like most things the city tries to ‘fix’ you will see a mountain of new rules without a lot of sense behind them, and hardly any enforcement (think texting and driving).


#1 Scott on 10.14.13 at 12:10 pm

I love this idea, as there are times its impossible to get a cab. Here’s an example. A few years ago, the temps on New Years Eve set a new record for low temps. Seriously, it was dangerously cold, with an extreme wind. I was at a downtown bar, and at the end of the night I spent a ton of time on the phone trying to find a cab. The rest of the bar had headed out as I continued to find a way home to my southeast area home. Because all of the major cab companies had contracted with the Arena and other facilities that were having big events, there were no cabs to be found. Walking in those temps was out of the question, and I ultimately had to drive home drunk.

#2 Sy on 10.14.13 at 12:30 pm

I agree, this idea would make a ton of sense. I also have to compete with people who don’t have my overhead and yes it sucks, but I would never dream of asking the City to “level the playing field”.

I bet every cab company in town started with one cab.

#3 Detroit Lewis on 10.14.13 at 1:14 pm

And in Omaha, I have never waited for a cab. You call and they are practically there in 2 minutes. Minneapolis/St. Paul, f’ing nightmare.

#4 Craig on 10.14.13 at 4:38 pm

Keep in mind a central dispatch costs a lot of money to manage – money the smaller guys would have a hard time coming up with.

It isn’t as simple as calling the next person in rotation. You need a dispatch system which determines which taxis are in service or out of service. This can be automated via a wireless signal, but in most cases you’re going to see a cabbie having to radio in when they are available, and then the central dispatch has to confirm with them if they are still available when their “turn” comes around on the list.

You then have to man that dispatch center 24/7/365 which means at least three full time and two part time employees, but more likely three full time, six part time, two supervisors, and a department head. If you want to go cheap and only staff it during peak times – how does that work for out-of-towners who call the number at 9PM after landing at FSD and wondering why nobody answers?

Salaries alone coupled with the dispatch hardware, software, office space…. I seriously think we are asking for a lot here. Then you have logistics of the companies being dispatched from two different dispatch centers… the city dispatch, and their own. I see all kinds of problems here.

The bigger companies might like it, but it would have the same effect on the smaller guys as some of the new rules… it would force out the small independents.

I just really have to ask – is this seriously a major complain in Sioux Falls? It smells a lot like a solution looking for a problem rather than the other way around.

#5 Detroit Lewis on 10.14.13 at 5:32 pm

You make some good points Craig, but I will say this, works great in Omaha. You could also computerize and automate the system, so you are actually directed to cab companies that are available, you wouldn’t need an ‘actual’ person running it.

#6 Detroit Lewis on 10.14.13 at 5:35 pm

Of course this is a city whose IT department is in complete denial about how SIRE ‘DOES’ work properly and you have to get into a 45 minute phone argument about how it ‘doesn’t’ work with them. But if you fire it up 15 minutes before a meeting starts, it works fine.

I would recommend the cab companies pool their money on this idea and hire a private software company to write the code for the system. Of course, Councilor Erpenbach would question the ‘safety’ of the whole situation while Karsky asked random questions about nothing.

Our city council, once again, at their finest. How many texting tickets have the SFPD written so far?

#7 Sy on 10.14.13 at 5:41 pm

I think L3wis is right, we all think “Taxi” the TV show when it could be set up within the existing resources available to the City and automated. Make the license fee annual and use it to help defer the costs, but don’t make it stupid expensive so a new guy starting up can’t swing it. I bet you could run numbers showing the off set in costs the City would see in reduced DUI cases.

#8 l3wis on 10.14.13 at 5:51 pm

Sy – of course the county would bitch if DUI’s went down, because the County Commission couldn’t justify spending more on law enforcement and raising taxes on booze. Ever had a Jeff Barth butt sandwich? No? Me neither. But I ain’t craving one either.

#9 anominous on 10.14.13 at 6:23 pm

Does this mean an end to the Pedi-Cab guy and that Horse Cart stuff downtown? If so, then I’m all for it. Sorry, you have to drive them things 24/7 if you want to hustle fares in this town.

#10 LJL on 10.14.13 at 7:36 pm

Should the city have the ability to say who can own a cab, what to charge and now when to operate. I don’t think so. We put up with so much bullshit from this so called democracy.

Think about this: you can pay any grease monkey can replace the brakes on your car but the city has to approve who can give you a ride. Safety my ass.

#11 Joan on 10.14.13 at 7:41 pm

I switch off between Yellow Cab and First Choice Taxi. Of the various times of day that I might need a cab, which is always in the daytime and usually early in the morning, the only time I have much of wait time is on week days when the are transporting kids to school and/or taking them home, and on the third of the month when people get their Social Security checks. That might have changed now, since people no longer get checks that they have to cash. It didn’t take me long to figure out that there are certain times of the day the cabs are busier than others. First Choice also offers a discount to Achieve clients if they show their Achieve ID cards. There are times if my daughter and I are going the same place, usually when she will need help with something, I go along for her cab fare. I guess I don’t see how the city could afford to have a hub for the all of the cab companies or whatever you want to call it, when they can’t afford to subsidize Paratransit with more funds.

#12 Muqhtar on 10.14.13 at 8:56 pm

Hmmm. Well. If taxi licensees were required to operate 24/7 they would HAVE to have the kind of scale to have real dispatching and we wouldn’t have the erratic and sporadic availability that seems to happen in Sioux Falls. To get a taxi in Sioux Falls it feels like you have to call like 12 places.

Here’s something that’s kind of neat – a number of large taxi companies in Minneapolis/St. Paul (and a lot of other major cities for that matter), all with automated dispatching, are hooked up with iPhone/Android apps like Taxi Magic. The app will figure out your location with GPS coordinates, make a dispatch request, they often even call to confirm! A lot of the drivers for major cab companies in Minneapolis/St. Paul are actually owner/operators who lease the cab from the cab company (which includes dispatching) or buy the cab outright and participate in a dispatching agreement. They often choose their own hours and own areas or taxi stands to wait at. Is it 100% “self-owned”? No. But the drivers still get ownership and the community benefits by having large, unified taxi companies.

#13 Muqhtar on 10.14.13 at 8:59 pm

I’m sorry, but with discussions of taxis I think this goes with it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1QJ8ijnNxM

#14 Winston on 10.14.13 at 10:36 pm

Did someone say they needed a taxi? Here’s one for you:


#15 anominous on 10.14.13 at 11:06 pm


#16 rufusx on 10.15.13 at 7:31 am

And a city run dispatch service (where the city decides which cab companies get “preferred” referrals, etc.) is ethically different from your imaginary developer run city planning service how? Oh – that’s right – it’s something YOU would find useful/benificial personally. I get it.

#17 CH on 10.15.13 at 8:30 am

Just what I was going to say Ruf. Well put.

#18 Detroit Lewis on 10.15.13 at 9:21 am

Ruf, you would sign up to be in the rotation, but like I and others have said, it would be best if the cab companies just handles it themselves, without city interference. I do find it ironic that the city doesn’t tell plumbers, dog walkers or bicycle repairmen what to charge but they can tell cab companies. Do they need some regulation? Sure, but I think letting them charge whatever would bring fares down, competition is a good thing. Know why their is so many cab companies in SF? Because the fares are regulated, unregulate them, and you will see quite a few disappear.

anom – “You talking to me?”

“Does this mean an end to the Pedi-Cab guy and that Horse Cart stuff downtown? ”

Hey, Harold also has his son helping out, don’t you think they could pull two 12’s 7 days a week?

Ironically the pedi-cabs in Ft. Collins don’t charge a fare, they work on tips only. The cabs have ‘sponsors’ who advertise on the rigs. And you should see them. They are covered, made of lightweight plastic, have xm and Pandora hooked up in them, and electric assist, they are pretty trick.

They look similar to this:

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