Concept: Twitter #taxishare

I travel pretty frequently.  If you do too, this might sound familiar.  Whenever I fly somewhere, the first thing I'll do upon landing is turn on my phone's radio to send/receive SMS and check email.  I'll usually scan Google Reader and/or Twitter while waiting to deplane.  Then I'll make my way straight to the taxi line to get a ride into town.

Sometimes, I know the wait will be ridiculous – like in Las Vegas or New York.  Other times, it's pretty quick, like in Austin.  But there's one aspect of the experience that bugs me consistently – solo travelers like me, taking taxis to the same general location.  Sure, I could walk up and down the line asking if anyone's going where I am – but in most places, that just doesn't seem culturally acceptable.  Kind of like saying hello to everyone in the elevator of a Midtown highrise.  Why?  Because there's no real need to engage with complete strangers that will soon leave your proximity.  Plus, you don't know what these people are all about.

Enter social technology.  The nature of participation lends itself to people willingly publishing personal profile information.  So you can get a sense of whether someone's sketchy or not without having the training of a FBI interrogator.

Here's the concept:  Do you think we could get a taxi sharing movement started using Twitter?

Two great reasons – better for your travel budget and better for the environment.  When I search for something similar, it appears that point solutions exist for cities like New York.  But to make something like this work, you need networks with critical mass – so it's easier to activate the native network with its million+ accounts and hundreds of thousands of active users.  Witness ideas like #followfriday or #songsaturday.

Here's how it could work.  Your plane lands.  You turn on your phone and take care of essential communications.  You search for #taxishare and see if anyone's nearby.  Or you tweet your own details, e.g. location, destination, time you're willing to wait until for responses (all times local), and the hashtag.  Like this:
  • LGA. W Times Square. 9 pm. #taxishare
  • BOS.  Harvard campus.  10:30 pm. #taxishare   

Anyone who's relevant can ping you back with an @ message.  You'd just have to run the search 2 or 3 times as you make your way to queue.

By using Twitter, users can check profile information before deciding to respond.  E.g. if you're only willing to share with other solo female travelers, you've got some ability to filter.  Naturally there are many ways to modify the message string to help.

I could see this being particularly useful next week as SXSW begins.  A lot of people are visiting Austin bound for destinations concentrated in the downtown area; many people are also on Twitter.

What do you think – could this work?  What are other benefits/drawbacks?  Would you be willing to try it out?

UPDATE:  If this sounds interesting to you, check out this resource developed by @sergiobayona. Nice.

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  1. Very cool concept. There could also be a wiki of #taxishare success stories (and a potential ratings system) that could guide people on potential taxi co-passengers. In addition, smart cab companies monitoring Twitter could identify immediate needs for pickups. Win-win for everyone and the environment.

  2. Is twitter really the best platform for it? This is a great idea but IMO it would actually make a ‘killer’ iPhone application. Location based so it would be able to auto-detect where you are/where you’re heading to?

  3. Great idea. The iPhone app idea is great–esp. for SXSW–but cuts down your potential for matches with the BBerry et al crowd in general. Esp. now, with travel budgets tight, and definitely in locations where the event would basically own the town/city.

  4. Would be nice for iPhone – but Twitter clients already have some of those features. The key is the scale that Twitter already has plus its function as a messaging network.

  5. Agreed, especially related to events for the technically-minded. SXSW, someone on Twitter suggested Web 2.0, Ad:tech, eTail,, et al. Great point on platform flexibility – best to use an existing communications network instead of native apps which limit adoption.

  6. Don’t get me wrong and I am an enthusiastic Twitterer – but, is this really safe? What if someone who wants to abduct you followed you and said he is going somewhere that you are going and made you share his taxi … ?

    Currently, IMO, Twittersville is filled up with early adopters – technology enthusiasts! But, I think, it is just a matter of time within which all these Social Media and Networking tools will also be in the wrong hands.


  7. That sounds like a great idea! I would be willing to try it out. I’ll start when our flight lands in Austin on the 13th. Look out for #taxishare from MLDina and MLMelissa!

  8. No reason that an iPhone app can’t sit on top of twitter framework, is there?

    You can give the iPhone users all the advantages of their GPS chipset and still keep everyone in the same pool for cab rides.

    I wouldn’t have to ride with only other iPhone users, though if there were enough of them that wouldn’t suck too much.

  9. I like this idea. So many times I travel and I find that people who were even on the same flight as me are heading to the same hotel and then over and over again I see them during my trip.

  10. sounds interesting and its hit or miss or miss or hit or hit the miss or miss the hit anyway you get my point – but there is more to this idea then meets the eye – think about it for sustainable development – or for social issue flash mob concepts or for people to help with issues like medical or natural or man made disasters – etc etc – don’t stop there being kim – keep messaging the idea – you might just stumble on the future

    be well

    the art of living is making your life an art

  11. on second thought good mistakes are those inventions that come out of nowhere when you least expect it – so taxi is just the seed of something that could have very insightful and inciteful social, economic, political, environmental resonance – imagine the unimaginable and about how little ideas can snowball – jeff pulver calls it the power of one is more then the power of none – food for thought

  12. Just fyi, if you’re staying in or near downtown austin or the UT area, you can take a bus from the airport for 75 cents.

  13. Yes, the #100 right? Not a bad idea, if the timing works.

    In my experience, New York and London are the only cities where public transportation are both less expensive and more convenient than a hired service. To your point, in most other cities, you’ll have to be serendipitously on a route or willing to schlep a bit with luggage to get where you’re going.

  14. Just one of the millions of uses twitter or micro blogging will have when any person can broadcast to a large group based on their temporary location. I think it is a great idea.

  15. I love the idea. I’m a programmer and I’m going to try building a web/mobile interface for it. Should have something up by the end of the weekend. Tweet me at @sergiobayona for any additional suggestions.

  16. Oooh, I don’t know everyone! I’m sorry to be the only dissenting voice here, but while I do like my twitter, I feel very bombarded with information I just don’t need (the ultimate trajectory of this renders twitter useless of course- I need more filtering apps perhaps). Do I really want to bother everyone I know with a note that I am in a queue for a taxi? On the offchance that someone I don’t know might find it useful! Seems a bit mean!

    Also, we’re all into social media yeah? There is a lot to be said for the human interaction. Not least that in this situation it would be the fastest way to find a travel buddy. It’s always going to be quicker to search in the queue than to search twitter, right?

  17. Hi Louisa – I think serendipity is one way in which Twitter is useful. I wonder – do you have your updates protected? If so, that might help explain your outlook on utility.

    Agreed that the human element could be more useful/efficient. I’m proposing a less efficient, more serendipitous (i.e. fun?), perhaps more culturally acceptable way to get similar information. The only people who ever approach me to share a ride are the rogue black car drivers at JFK!

  18. He he, as Paul Simon once said, “Hey, aren’t we walking down the same street on the very same day”…Yup, I get that serendipity thing- and it’s made me smile. Thanks for replying!

  19. twitter or no twitter, in mumbai, there’s no space left on the roads and u see taxis with a single occupant…yeah, going in the same damn direction…time is around when we will be forced to share taxis, then we will use easy means, like twitter, to find a shared taxi, etc…

    still, ur idea is a very cool one

  20. Good idea. Certainly worth a try especially for frequent travelers. I wonder if same concept can be applied to shopping in particular wholesale stores. Sometimes I don’t want too much of everything and wish I could share with someone. It will certainly reduce my bill (much needed in this economy). Far fetched but one never knows.

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