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Texting (SMS) for a Shared Taxi: Demand Responsive Transit Brokerage

A seed-stage company in the UK has developed a system that collates requests for point-to-point travel from a dispersed set of travellers via SMS (they text-message by cellphone their destination postcode to the system), and then packages travellers going in the same direction into one vehicle at a discounted fare.

Texxi (“Texxi, the taxi you text”) is a demand-responsive transit brokerage (DRT Brokerage) system.

Prospective passengers send their postcode to the Texxi SMS number. The system then aggregates other passengers wanting to go to the same area and confirms details of the taxi driver’s name and badge number to the passengers.

Passengers are instructed to go to pre-determined pickup points to meet the driver who will have received a text confirming each passenger’s booking reference.

In the prototype demonstration in Liverpool, each passenger will pre-pay a flat fee of £5.

Benefits of this approach include:

  • Lower passenger fares for point-to-point travel.

  • Increased revenue for the taxi driver for essentially the same work.

  • Reduction of potential CO2 emissions and fuel consumption as the total number of trips are reduced.

Texxi is the brainchild of Crane Dragon—a new venture founded by four partners designed to develop new solutions and companies.

The concept for Texxi came from an Operational Analysis research problem applied to the financial markets. One of the four founders noticed that credit contagion algorithms he had developed in investment banking could similarly be used to aggregate groups of people going to roughly the same destination and direct them to a single vehicle maximizing the limited resources available.

The founders modeled the Texxi system on peak demand times: 11 pm–4 am on Friday and Saturday in Liverpool when there is a huge spike in demand for taxis.

There are 1,600 Hackney (Black London type) cabs and 22,000 private hire vehicles in Liverpool to serve a nominal population of 500,000. This is the highest per capita number of Hackney cabs (cabs you can hail on the street) for any city in the UK and yet at least 50% of the nighttime population will have to walk some or all of the way home most weekends.

—Eric Masaba, Crane Dragon

As a solution for getting pub revelers home safely and economically, this is mildly interesting, and with some net benefit on the emissions-reduction and fuel-efficiency side of the ledger.

Applied more broadly as a solution to reduce urban congestion and single-passenger trips at times of peak demand, however, Texxi could begin to make a measurable impact.

Furthermore, the Crane Dragon team has larger ambitions. They intend to roll out this technology to industrializing nations as soon as possible. (China is an ideal target.)

The UK postal code is currently the foundation of the system’s geo-coding. As used currently in Texxi, using the first character of the second grouping (for an explanation of the design of the UK postal code system, see here) brings everyone to about 400m of their destination. Not quite door-to-door, but a fair fit of cost and result.

For developing countries (such as in East Africa), Texxi will build its “own” postcode system using triangulation from mobile masts as an overlay guide. (And perhaps improve mail delivery as well.)



Having worked for 24 years in public transit I know how difficult it is to get passengers where they want to go when they want to do it. Having on vehicle for every 20 residents is a highly unlikley scenario in the US. I doubt there are even 250 taxis in Grand Rapids which is roughly the same size as Liverpool.

Texxi Ops

This system may revolutionise the way not just transit works, but also how hotels and restaurants effecitively interact with their customers. There is a meta-system at play here - a "hospitality-logisitics-transport cloud" involving Hospitality Business and Transport and Logistics Businesses.

Dynamic Demand Maps enabled by SMS technology will make things more efficient for everyone in the City of Liverpool, which is currently plagued by roadblocks, a "Big Dig" road-improvement project and a huge number of out-of-towners coming in at the weekend.

Owen Ephraim

My software has been copyrighted since 1968, a trial system was proposed and a customer survey carried out by MORI in 2001 with very positive results. Texting and fares to be organised via a telephone company for up to 4 fares (up to 8 passengers)to be carried from any origin to any destination in a 50 sq km operating area.
The algorithms have been researched using 'on the road trials'which show that, given appropriate 'trip desnities' relative to the vehicles in operation at any time, the probable average 'load' is 1.5 fares resulting in 7.5 'average' fares per hour. This is the 'Many to many' mode of operation. A second mode of 'one to many' and 'many to one' (eg. from and to a hospital) using the same software might achieve 10 average fares per hour (for non stretcher cases. A third mode of the same software allows single fares (i.e. normal taxi) to be carried while the system allocates the next fare to be allocated while the previous fare approaches the destination. This mode makes up to 4 average fares an hour per vehicle.
Bus operators hate the idea, taxi operators fear the idea, petrol retailers oppose the idea, car makers see sales in jeopardy, local authorities wait for someone else to try it, the government fears for the fuel tax implications and the economic effect on the car industry so the possibility will die with me.
Is there anyone out there willing to investigate?


I have several comments:
1) You are correct that resistance to shared taxis is political more than anything else. Here in Vancouver, B.C. Canada an attempt was made to start a new shared taxi company/business but it was successfully blocked by existing taxi companies. Resistance may also come from existing government/transit authorities who have a self serving interest to maintain maximum efficiency such that executives can receive their bonuses.
2) The way to move shared taxis forward is that it needs to be presented as a green solution with social benefits as well. The public needs to be convinced of the benefit such that the push can come from the "bottom" (i.e. the public) as there is too much self interest at the "top".
3) If you would like to see a shared taxi model that I believe provides the best level of transit service in the world visit Jamaica. There you will see a shared taxi program that offers a better life style to most than having their own car. Taxis drive by every few minutes even in remote areas. They pick up and drop off anywhere along their route.
4) Western thought proposes mass transit as the transportation solution... larger buses, automated trains, etc. but this level of service will only be acceptable to part of the population (i.e. mainly those without their own vehicle). We need to think about those who have and can afford their own cars. How do we get those persons out of their vehicle? The only way to do this is to provide a better service than their car and shared taxis offer that. What can be better than a car with driver that picks you up right in front of your home and drops you off in front of your work place? Or that picks you up right in front of the grocer and drops you off in front of your residence?
5) Think about women and children safety. With shared taxis a woman can simply refuse to get into a car with a male passenger she's not comfortable with and take the next car (right behind that one). This difference is especially important late at night when with mass transit a bus or train might be making its' last run! As well, shared taxis can and do run all night as there's always enough passengers that need rides. In contrast mass transit can't run all night as it needs too many passengers.
6) Think about the social benefits of shared taxis. In the cozier environment you meet your neighbors and talk to them. Something that doesn't happen in the cool and impersonal environment of mass transit.
7) Shared taxis are a green solution even though it might be argued otherwise. It's simple... multiple passengers in a vehicle is better than a single driver every time!!!

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