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Shared-Ride Taxi Service in Boston, MA
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Shared-Ride Taxi Service in Boston, MA
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    This report presents an evaluation of the Boston Shared-Ride Taxi Demonstration. The City of Boston's Traffic and Parking Department, the project grantee, designed a shared-ride service for Boston's Allston-Brighton neighborhood; Boston Cab Association, one of the City's major taxi operators, offered the service during the demonstration period and then continued to do so following the close of the demonstration. No operating assistance was provided to Boston Cab, who assumed the cost of the call-taker/dispatcher assigned to the project. The demonstration, funded in part by the UMTA Service and Methods Demonstration Program, ran from July 1982 through March 1984. The service itself, called Share and Save, was implemented in April 1983. During the demonstration period, Share and save was available for trips within Allston-Brighton or from Allston-Brighton to adjoining towns and other parts of Boston. Fares were based on a grid pattern designed to approximate 60 percent of the equivalent premium fare. The service could be accessed via telephone only, and 24-hour advance notice was recommended. However, even making an advance reservation did not guarantee a ride (at the shared-ride fare), because of the "single passenger rule;" this rule stated that a caller would not necessarily be given a shared-ride fare if his/her request could not be matched with another request. The final significant service guideline was that the 30 percent discount taxi coupons available to the elderly through the City of Boston would not be accepted on Share and Save. The demonstration's major accomplishment was the actual development and implementation of a shared-ride service. However, the operational results were very disappointing: there were approximately 30 requests for service during the 11-month operational period, and, because no requests could be matched, no shared rides were provided. Several factors contributed to the low demand level, including the following: 1) the exclusion of the elderly discount coupons; 2) the single passenger rule; 3) the 24-hour advance notice recommendation; 4) the complicated fare structure; 5) the fact that service could be accessed via telephone only; 6) a budgetary restriction on marketing funds; 7) difficulties with the telephone line; and 8) the fact that no funds were provided to the operator, producing a limited commitement to the project. While the project failed to demonstrate the true potential of the shared-ride taxi concept, it produced a number of valuable lessons concerning the development, implementation, and operation of a shared-ride taxi service. These findings should be considered carefully by other locations planning to introduce such services.
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