Cab Sharing In Philly: Green? Or Gross?

Taxi rides with complete strangers, anyone? By Claire Salmons

Taking a cab in Philadelphia should be like ordering a cheesesteak at Pat’s—wit or witout—there’s very little room for socializing. But now is coming to town (they’re already going strong in NYC). The web-based service allows travelers to share taxi rides with complete strangers, and here’s how it works: First, Cabcorner users fill out a profile, displaying information like age, sex, relationship status, income, and a recent profile picture. Then, they can either post a request for or join a “ride.” Once a match is made, the two users agree on a meeting point, or “hot spot,” and catch a cab together.

Makes sense, right?

Sure it does, with our slowly deteriorating environment—kudos BP—and our recent economic crisis. However, there was one factor that didn’t rest so well with me—sharing a cab with a complete stranger. Who’s to say the “32-year-old mother of two” member isn’t really a 55-year-old bachelor? Ew. Or that your companion won’t pull the old ride-and-ditch? I had to check it out for myself.[SIGNUP]

So, I created my own Cabcorner profile, leaving out certain information like income (as an intern my salary is, well, nonexistent) and relationship status. I then uploaded a very modest profile picture of myself, posted two ride requests and waited. One … two … three days passed and no takers.

I began looking around for rides to join. My options: a guy flexing his muscles; a girl in a bikini; and Felix, who had posted four different rides around the city, all of which were departing within five minutes of each other. Feeling like I was looking at one of those mysterious Facebook friend requests from “Alejandro,” from “Peru,” it occurred to me that reducing their carbon footprint may not be the only thing on Cabcorner users’ minds.

So I asked the website’s creators what the deal was. “Our users are going to be people who are into using the Internet and into social networking,” say Jesse Sommer and Jonathan McKinney. “People have approached this platform as not just a way to save money but also as an exciting way of meeting people.”

Sounds great, I guess, but I have to wonder what our local cab companies will think of being used as the next social networking vehicle? Anyone who has ever taken a cab in Philadelphia knows that there are two ways to annoy your driver: Not knowing where you want to go, and paying with a credit card. So picture two complete strangers, two different destinations, and two separate means of payment—sounds like the trifecta for cab driver road rage. sounds like a great idea, especially for those of us who are trying to save an extra buck. But do you really think Philly’s ready for this?