Philly Needs a Suburban Taxi Service That Doesn’t Suck

And 7 more ideas for the next great Philly entrepreneur.

Times are tough, and the economy is barely growing. People are looking for work. But others are thinking differently. They’re thinking of starting their own businesses. And why not? Now’s a great time to become an entrepreneur in Philadelphia because there are opportunities here to make some big bucks if you’re willing to take a shot. Here, a few good, profitable, money-generating businesses that the region needs.

1. A suburban taxi service that doesn’t suck. Ever take a ride to the airport using a suburban taxi service? Did you survive? Congratulations! It’s kind of amazing when you consider the dilapidated condition of both the vehicle and the typical driver you’re given at six in the morning. Why am I still giving directions to the driver? What is that piece of rubber hanging from the ceiling? How the hell am I going to get the smell of smoke out of my sports jacket, and wash that mysterious new stain out of the seat of my pants from that ride I took two months ago? And why did this all just cost me $60? This region and its suburbs could use a clean, friendly, safe, professional taxi service.

2. A truly great mobile traffic service. I’m still looking for that mobile app that will tell me when to avoid the intersection of the Blue Route and the Schuylkill. Some services try, but I don’t think they’re reliable. This is a mobile app that needs to be written and it needs to be done by a local company with local resources. Why not team up with the TV and radio stations too? Go ahead and charge for it; I’ll pay.

3. A clean, comfortable downtown movie theater. My master plan is to someday sell our house in the suburbs and empty-nest it down in the city. But am I forever forced to read my movies at the Ritz? If you’re the entrepreneur for the project, note possible competition in Stephen Starr.

4. More places to eat outside. I go to New York, and there are bars and restaurants in little gardens and on rooftops. In San Antonio, there are bars and restaurants along the river. I go to Philadelphia and, well … I guess I can eat outside at Pat’s or Geno’s, right? The pickings here are still pretty slim. And no, eating on the sidewalk on Rittenhouse Square as pedestrians shuffle their way in between tables doesn’t cut it. With this global warming trend, I’m betting there will be lots more opportunities for the entrepreneurial local restaurateur who wants to create a fun, roomy and atmospheric place to eat under the stars and in the city.

5. Tech help for our state and local governments. I recently got pulled over driving through Valley Forge National Park (in my defense, that group of senior citizens crossing the road was taking way too much time) and was asked for my license, insurance and registration. I couldn’t find my registration but luckily the officer was good enough to allow me to email him a scanned copy when I got home. Is that what we’ve come to? Emailing police officers? Shouldn’t all this stuff be online already? Do we really need to be carrying around our car’s paperwork, our library card, our driver’s license? Didn’t my daughter just upload 50 gigs of videos to her YouTube account yesterday? Yet our state and local governments can’t store this stuff for quick access by both ourselves and people like the police? I’m assuming this is all coming together, but not fast enough.

6. A shore shuttle service. It’s seasonal, I know. But there’s already a pretty good train service from Philadelphia to Atlantic City. And then it’s like you’ve dropped off a cliff. A little business with a few vans would do the trick. I’m betting there are plenty of high school and college kids without cars who would like to drink and have sex on of all of Jersey’s beaches. Now there’s an untapped market.

7. Restaurant mobile point of sale. In Europe, in Asia, even in Canada for God’s sake, when it comes time to pay your bill the waiter/waitress brings a mobile point of sale unit to your table where you swipe your card, enter the tip and get your receipt. Duh. It saves time for both the table staff and the customers. Been to the Apple store lately? Yeah, they’re geniuses alright. Now think of all the other stores in Philadelphia that could use the same type of mobile systems. Ka-ching.

8. Supermarket RFID. I go to the Acme on Sundays. I load up my cart with fruit, meats and Pop-Tarts. I unload my fruit, meats and Pop-Tarts at the checkout. I then put my fruit, meats and Pop-Tarts into plastic bags. I walk the bags to the car. I load the bags in the car. I drive home. I carry the bags inside. I unload the fruits, meats and Pop-Tarts on to my kitchen table. I put them away. I repeat this every Sunday. Someone help me! Some smart cookie is going to do something about this. That entrepreneur is going to help our local supermarkets implement radio frequency identification (RFID) systems. That way I scan the items right at the shelf and place into a bag in my cart and then walk right out the store. My credit card’s already on file. Talk about saving time!

Look, you can complain about the economy. Or you can try to do something about it. It’s America. Start a business. In Philadelphia, we make money. I dare you: Be one of the one percent. From what I hear it’s not so bad!