HRT offering cellphone taxi app

Jordan Crawford | 2/26/2014, 2:43 p.m.
HRT is offering App-a-Cab.

According to Hampton Roads Transportation Inc. (HRT), their taxi dispatch center in Norfolk received calls at a rate of 800 calls per hour during the recent snowfall.

“Bad weather is cab weather,” said Frank Azzalina, the company’s business development director. Better to let somebody else drive through the slush, many customers decide.

Some, however, had a clear advantage over others trying to get a taxi, those who’d downloaded the company’s App-a-Cab call service to their smartphones. Two clicks, and the closest available cab was on the way, directed to its customer by GPS.

Azzalina said about 600 people have downloaded the app since it was introduced locally on Feb. 3, and 62 used the app on Wednesday.

HRT handles dispatch for 287 cabs spread across six taxi brands. It’s the first to offer the taxi app locally, he said. The region’s college students and young sailors are among the early adopters.

Not all users will be younger or tech-savvier than average, Azzalina said. “We think it’s also appealing to certain folks who just don’t want to talk to anyone.”

“I think most people have cars around here, this might not be necessary except during severe weather,” said Lee Dawson of Norfolk.

Dawson feels a service like this is better for a place like New York or Washington D.C. where it is more common for people to not have their own cars.

“I don’t think this will last that long,” said Dawson.