Hailing a Cab With Your Phone

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Q: It's a pain to look up individual cab companies whenever I travel to a new city. Is there one way to reach all of them regardless of my location?

Taxi.jpgA: Even though its founders have received a cease and desist order from the San Francisco Metro Transit Authority & the Public Utilities Commission of California, UberCab, a new startup that allows you to hail a cab using your iPhone or Android-based phone, continues to operate. After downloading the app, customers can input their address and the nearest available car -- a sleek black sedan -- will arrive in about five to ten minutes. UberCab also works for those without smartphones; just text your address to UBR-CAB (827-222).

There's a fee for convenience, though. UberCab charges customers a base rate of $8, plus nearly $5 for every mile they travel. There's a $15 minimum. On the plus side, payments are charged directly to your credit card and tips are included in the fare. A personal page on uberapp.com allows you to view driver ratings, mileage, trip history and maps of routes you have taken in the past.

While UberCab hasn't spread across the country yet -- it's only available in San Francisco -- there's another popular app that works in similar ways: TaxiMagic.

Directly integrated with taxi dispatch systems, TaxiMagic allows you to book a cab from your mobile phone or the Internet, track the arrival of the cab, charge the ride to your credit card and even expense the entire thing with an e-receipt. Like UberCab, TaxiMagic works through a dedicated app -- available for the iPhone, BlackBerry, Android or Palm -- or can be used with simple text messaging. Text TMAGIC (862442) with your address and receive a confirmation message within seconds.

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Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

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