Ridehail and Taxi

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Despite the meteoric growth of app-based car services, there is currently no data standard for ridehail or taxi providers that would allow passengers to find, book, and pay for a ride in trip planners like Google Maps and Transit, or to integrate them with other app-based mobility options. But as efforts continue to build out MaaS data standards, that could change.

Interestingly, ridehail services had been relatively early adopters of APIs, starting with Uber in 2015 and Lyft in 2016. While these private APIs enabled real-time ETAs, pricing information, and even the ability to book a ride, Uber and Lyft barred apps that used their APIs from also showing other ridehail services. Ultimately, after Uber and Lyft went public in early 2019 and began pursuing a strategy to consolidate mobility options within the Uber and Lyft apps, both companies revoked public access to their APIs and restricted integrations to a limited number of approved app partners.

While Transit has become expert at integrating a wide variety of private ridehail and taxi APIs including Uber, Lyft, Via, Curb, iCabbi, and Ola, our experience shows that there are still too many hurdles for these integrations to achieve their full potential. Adopting a MaaS data standard for on-demand taxi and ridehail services could bring the industry onto the same page, lower the barriers to entry, and promote multimodal connections.

That’s one reason we’ve joined MobilityData’s working group to create the General On-Demand Feed Specification (GOFS). The working group includes regulators from Montreal and Washington, DC, who see the potential for an on-demand data standard to improve taxi and ridehail offerings. Microtransit, ridehail, and taxis are all on-demand, hailable options that fill a crucial first- and last-mile need — and are often provided by the same company. GOFS can easily be used for both types of services. The work underway to develop GOFS will help bring taxi and ridehail services into the larger MaaS ecosystem.

Guidance for public agencies

  • Although no MaaS data standard for taxi and ridehail services yet exists, public agencies can still request or encourage the provision of a well-documented, public trip planning APIs in permit applications or regulatory processes.
  • A broad working group under the guidance of MobiltyData is defining the GOFS standard, which encompasses both on-demand transit and services from taxi and ridehail providers. Agencies, cities, apps, and operators alike can get involved in conversations around GOFS, and become an early adopter of this new open data standard. 
  • Public agencies can also ask operators to provide documentation of their past experience with third-party integrations.
  • Going above and beyond trip planning, regulators can also request that operators build and provide payment APIs accessible through third-party apps. 

RFP and contract examples

Check back often as this document will be updated regularly with new permit and contract examples, especially as GOFS continues to gain momentum. 

Given that a data standard for taxi and ridehail information is only being created as this guidebook went to press, there are not yet any examples of public agencies requesting data in this format from operators. However, existing data sharing provisions of taxi and ridehail regulations provide an easy jumping off point for requesting this data. New York and LA’s regulations can serve as a model.

The New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission have extensive requirements for data collection from taxi and for hire vehicle services as part of their operating requirements. While today the regulator does not require consumer-facing APIs for trip planning apps, there is nothing preventing them from following the example set by bike and scooter share systems. There, regulators ask operators to provide public data feeds as a condition of operating. In the future, taxi regulators could adopt the same language into their operating rules and conditions for taxi and for hire service, requesting a public GOFS feed for use in trip planning and other third party apps. 

Taxi regulators in Los Angeles are moving to require MDS data feeds for enforcement and compliance purposes. As that rule takes effect, there’s an opportunity to simultaneously request a GOFS feed from taxi operators for the general public. 

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