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Lacuna Tech Powers L.A. Pilot for Taxi Ride Equity

Data delivered via the gov tech provider could help city officials bring more taxis to underserved areas, better serve disabled riders and craft other programs. The push follows similar work in L.A. involving scooters.

A busy street in Los Angeles.
Four-year-old transportation and mobility tech company Lacuna, fresh off a $16 million funding round, is now helping Los Angeles bring more equity to the city’s taxi operations.

L.A. is the launch program for an effort that has Lacuna, based in Silicon Valley, digitizing the connection between the city and its taxi fleets, Hugh Martin, Lacuna's CEO, told Government Technology. That push, in turn, is part of the city’s goal to make taxis more competitive with ride-hailing services while bringing better taxi options to underserved areas.

Lacuna uses open source software to help local officials supervising the city’s eight taxi fleets analyze ride revenue, vehicle propulsion types, accessibility and where trips start and stop. This new work builds off similar data collection and analysis focused on scooter use in Los Angeles.

This work also follows the city council’s decision in early 2022 to make the city’s taxi industry more competitive via action that includes data sharing and lifting the rule that taxis be painted yellow, among other features.

The goal now is to help the city “understand what is going on in real time,” Martin said. “They can do per-trip pricing, for example, and put (a) finger on the scale effectively on things like equity and access to cabs for disabled people. They can do things to get outcomes they want.”

Indeed, the data will help the city determine how long residents in neighborhoods have to wait to get taxis, said Jarvis Murray, L.A.’s for-hire transportation administrator.

“Is it five minutes in Westwood and 25 minutes in South L.A.?” he asked by way of example. “We kind of have an idea of how that is, but it’s all anecdotal.”

The data could help with that task and others such as dedicating taxi space during, say, sports playoff games, setting up special taxi zones and incentivizing certain trips. The city then could digitally inform taxi drivers — relatively used to regulation but not all connected as closely to the Internet as their ride-hailing peers — about changes and temporary programs, according to the vision offered by Murray.

“If we get the right kind of data — not self-reported data, there is the equity data we need,” he said, adding that the city needs at least six months' worth of data to shape better taxi equity programs.
Thad Rueter writes about the business of government technology. He covered local and state governments for newspapers in the Chicago area and Florida, as well as e-commerce, digital payments and related topics for various publications. He lives in Wisconsin.