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March 23, 2011

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.


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Posted by Erik Maza at 9:00 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, News
        

Comments

"why aren't more people using a free cab service when they're drunk?"

Because no one wants to wait for a cab that may or may not come when there are plenty sitting outside the bar. There were 190 "dispatched". How many actually picked up the person who called instead of stopping for a paying customer on the way?

If a cab was sent to pick up someone at Mother's at 2:00 AM, there's no chance in hell that the person who called would get the cab and whoever did would be paying a fare.

Until this becomes a simple free cab service instead of a call and pray, it will never get used. And Yellow is counting on that all the way to the bank.

Be thankful that there is such a service and that cabs in Baltimore are taking drunk people home. This past weekend while I was in Boston, some friends of mine were denied a cab while trying to get home while tipsy. The driver specifically said angrily, "I don't take drunks in my cab!" And they were paying customers....

It's just not a dependable service 3/4 of the time you don't get a cab and end up either paying or driving anyway.

It 'd rather have free cab service the next morning to take me back to get my car at this point - clearly these people can't pull off the night of the actual holiday

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at erik.maza@baltsun.com. Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.
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