A Long Beach Yellow Cab waits for a passenger on Pine Avenue. Photo by Jason Ruiz
As the transportation battle between traditional taxi companies and start-up, ride-hailing services trudges into its sixth year, Long Beach Yellow Cab continues its rebranding efforts into the new year, starting with offering riders in its Long Beach service area free rides Wednesday January 6.
The Free Ride Wednesday event is as much about bringing exposure to its new and improved smart phone application, Ride Yellow, and to further capitalize on restrictions that were eased by the Long Beach City Council in May of last year.
A temporary taxi hub will be set up at First Street and Pine Avenue, where riders will be able to receive complimentary rides within a three-mile radius from 8:00AM until noon. However, for those using the Ride Yellow app, riders using the promotional code “FREERIDE” will be granted a free $15 dollar ride credit from anywhere within the company’s service area for an additional eight hours until 8:00PM.
In addition to offering free rides city-wide for users of their app, Skye Featherstone, a marketing strategist with Long Beach Yellow Cab, said that it will also introduce a promotional discounted rate of 25 percent off for those hailing a cabs with the app.
“You’ll find that it’s a very good price point compared to our competitors and other ride-hailing apps,” Featherstone said. “This allows us to win on price, which we feel is the most important point for the consumer throughout the week. While others are raising their prices, ours stay the same and are even getting lower.”
The promotional price—deemed an indefinite promotion for the time being—was one of multiple regulatory reliefs granted to the cabs in Long Beach last year when the council voted to allow for the practice to exist in an effort to help level the playing field with the likes of Lyft and Uber. The council also allowed the company to expand its fleet, which now stands at around 200 cabs city wide.
Featherstone said the 25 percent reduction in fares from rides hailed from its app will remain in place for as long as the company sees positive responses to it, but there is no set timetable for it.
Yellow Cab’s price structure was set by a city ordinance that stipulated no promotional codes could be granted until the council voted to allow the practice. Mayor Robert Garcia characterized the May vote not as an attempt to level the playing field for Yellow Cab— which had been battling the price structures of Uber and Lyft that allow the companies to charge significantly lower base fares and mileage rates—but as supporting a valued community partner.
While the move granted freedoms to offer promotional rates, Featherstone said he doesn’t anticipate the use of price surging tactics that drew backlash on social media last week after some Uber riders began posting statuses depicting New Year’s Eve rides home that came with bills running several hundred dollars in some cases.
“We are proud to say that our prices stay the same, we have stable pricing,” Featherstone said. “Not only do we have stable pricing, with this 25 percent discount, we are reducing all rides on the app and they will stay that way.”
Representatives from Yellow Cab said that the price reduction was an important element of the new push they’ll be making in the new year to help better the Yellow Cab experience for current users, but also to reach out to new riders with the use of technology.
Companies like Lyft and Uber have capitalized on the propensity for consumers to rely on smart phone apps to conduct daily tasks, so developing and continuing to improve on its app was a priority for Yellow Cab once it announced its intentions last year. The recent approval by state legislators to allow for operating systems mimicking those used by the ride-hailing industry could also help to ease the transition for riders to the Ride Yellow app.
“I think a big part of developing an app and effective marketing and branding for an app is to understand the millennial generation that has definitely adopted the app as the go-to for getting things done,” said Yellow Cab Director of Strategy Shan Gupta.
Gupta said the company had to strike a balance between providing the efficiency and convenience that consumers demand out of apps but also retain Yellow Cab’s core tenets. The app, Gupta said, provides the company with “a breath of fresh air.”
During its kickoff event Wednesday, customers hitching rides at its downtown ride-center will be given tutorials on how to use the app in the future.
Past all the bells and whistles of the new app, revamped logo and new lemon-tinged paint jobs, Featherstone said that Wednesday’s event really comes down to trying to remind the community that it’s still providing Long Beach with clean, reliable modes of transportation, something that might have added value with projections calling for a prolonged rainy season.
“In this El Niño season, we feel it’s really important to be providing great service and warm comfortable rides,” Featherstone said.