Tipsy? Taxi! improves service on St. Patrick's Day, except between 1 and 2 a.m.
Tipsy? Taxi! did a better job on St. Patrick's Day than on New Year's Eve, a spokeswoman for sponsor AAA Mid-Atlantic said.
The service, which offers free cab rides to residents too drunk to drive on certain holidays, had been barraged by complaints over dropped calls and shoddy service in December.
But this time, 190 cabs were dispatched to service Tipsy calls, a 10 percent increase over last St. Patrick's Day, according to AAA spokeswoman Christine Delise.
While AAA qualifies the number as a success, the number is relatively small in context, and begs the question, why aren't more people using a free cab service when they're drunk?
The service, sponsored by AAA, Yellow Cab, and the State Highway Administration, is now in its third year.
In December, it stumbled badly. Operator Yellow Cab dropped 18 percent of calls on New Year's Eve, and the waiting time for one of its cabs was 45 minutes in some instances. As a result, only 92 rides were given, and consumers responded with intense criticism.
After the complaints caught the attention of the SHA, Yellow Cab pledged to improve service going forward, and this year, they added an additional operator dedicated to Tipsy calls.
The sponsors credit this with a decrease in dropped calls. Throughout St. Patrick's Day, Yellow Cab dropped an average seven percent of calls.
At peak hours, however, the service was still overwhelmed, and about 34 percent of calls were dropped.
Delise defended the average.
"On a non-holiday night Yellow Cab’s call answering response rate ranges from 80% to 96%," she explained. But, "Last Thursday night the cab company’s call center for their paying customers was averaging around 88% so Tipsy?Taxi! callers got answered at a better rate than calls to Yellow Cab’s regular number for paid service."
She conceded that peak hours an area that still needs improvement.
"We will also continue to explore ways to improve the call response rate during that key hour when last call is sounded, the bars are closing, and everyone wants to go home at the same time," she wrote via e-mail.
Even with the added operator, and the improved response time, however, the service was underutilized on St. Patrick's Day. It's not that there weren't enough people celebrating that day.
Just marching on the St. Patrick's Day parade were 2,000, while about 18,000 to 20,000 observers lined the parade route, according to Baltimore Police. That number is about 20 percent more than the crowd attending last year's event.
Delise said the sponsors of the service are looking into ways of expanding their ridership. For now, it intends to keep three operators dedicated to Tipsy calls.
"AAA Mid-Atlantic, SHA and Yellow Cab have been discussing strategies to ensure not only quality service but as many free rides to customers as possible during campaign periods," Delisa wrote.
We'll have to wait and see on July 4, the next time Tipsy? Taxi! will be on offer.