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With the development of new transportation networks like Uber and Lyft, taxi cab companies had to find new ways to adapt to the competition or risk losing their business.

When it was announced that Uber -- a San Francisco-based company that uses a smartphone application to pair riders with the service’s independently contracted drivers -- was going to add Sioux City to its list of servable areas, Said Zeman took action.

The owner of Yellowstone Cab Company released an app of his own called Better Ride in March – coincidentally, the same month Uber launched in Sioux City. The app, available for download on the App Store and Google Play, allows Siouxland customers to contact one of Yellowstone Cab’s dozen drivers for a ride, as opposed to calling them.

“The app makes life very easy for everybody,” said Zeman.

Yellowstone Cab still allows customers the option to call for a taxi via phone. However, the convenience of the app, Zeman said, makes it the more appealing option. Clients can also choose to pay their fare with cash or card via application.

“It will also tell you when the driver has arrived,” said Zeman. “It will tell you how far the driver is from you. As soon as the driver arrives, your phone pops up and tells you the driver has arrived. Before you get into the car, you will know the person’s name, what the car looks like – all the information you need, you’ll find there on your phone.”

Zeman wanted to make sure the app would be as detailed as possible. Customers can even schedule a taxi ride for a specific time slot and rate their drivers in a similar way to Uber. Zeman, who has been working in transportation services for 14 years, believes that the customer serves as the driver’s employer, in a sense.

Once hired, drivers are given five stars (out of five). From then on, it’s up to the driver to maintain his or her rating with excellent service to the customer. Zeman said drivers are critiqued on different factors.

“So many reasons -- how he drives, how he professionally talks to the customer, whatever you feel like,” he said. “You rate them when you’re all finished. And the driver is rating you too, as a customer.”

If a driver reaches below a certain rating threshold, the system “will automatically shut him off” pending Zeman’s final decision.

This system effectively allows drivers to attain nearly instant feedback and can correct their work accordingly. Zeman particularly enjoys this aspect of the app because it allows him to connect with the customer and also improve his work.

“I understand what the customer needs, whether they are happy with my service or not,” said Zeman. “All that you feel, you can put it there. It will give so much. I believe more than anything in that app, [the rating system] is the biggest boost for people who care about the customers.”

In addition to the app allowing a more timely way of scheduling a taxi cab, Zeman said it’s substantially cheaper for customers to use the app as opposed to calling in.

“If you were to call in right now for a ride, we would charge you $2.45 per mile,” said Zeman. “When you order through the app, it’s only $2 per mile. You’re saving 45 cents per mile. We need the people to use the app. It’s more convenient for customers and the drivers.”

In an age where services like Uber exist, Zeman said having taxi companies meet new world standards is necessary in insuring its existence.

“I ask myself, ‘What is the future of taxis?’” said Zeman. “Do I find something else? Or do I find a way to compete with this new technology. Right now, it’s not only Uber. There’s about four or five other companies that are very popular right now.

“Those companies are the future of transportation system. There are a lot of issues and problems still. So the cab company needs to compete with that or just be kicked to the side. It needs to deal with the new technology that is out now.”

Zeman sees Yellowstone Cab, which is headquartered in Sioux City, as a service to the people. He also hopes the app will make those connections between riders and drivers stronger.

“I will serve this community – that is my commitment,” said Zeman.


Weekender reporter

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