The one where I discover a new way of taxing around Nairobi

A screen shot of the App.
A screen shot of the App.

The Short version of the blog

I discovered Easy Taxi a new mobile App on Google Play Store which allows you to book taxis at reasonable prices this weekend. After testing the service I came to the following realization.

The Pros

  • The App allowed me to book a taxi which came to my destination. I could follow the taxi dude on it as he came to where I was.

  • The price was reasonable. I don’t have to negotiate too much unlike when I am somewhere and I have to call someone who would quote me a price based on their needs.

  • The drivers access new business opportunities especially for those who might be starting out.

The Flaws

  • There are some areas of the city where there aren’t many drivers signed up.

  • The GPS + Data combo is a killer of your cellphone charge. While this might not be too bad for you as a consumer of the taxi service it is not ideal for you as a taxi driver as it means you have to use a great phone battery wise (Chuck your Samsung phones) or be constantly charging your phone.

So I recommend you to try this new service.

Ready to request a taxi.
Ready to request a taxi.

The Long version of the blog (For those who have more time)

Travelling around the city of Nairobi is one of those things. Like in any city the options are simple; public or private. For long in this town when you decided to go the private route once you have your car then you are good to go as whenever you wanted to just get into your car and off you were.

In the last few years it’s not so simple. First there was that period when the cars were being car jacked so making the whole “Nairoberry” moniker to be justified. At one time it was so bad that every single car on the roads had their number plates on the side of the vehicle to make it easier to identify it was car jacked and you were holed up in your boot. It became much better when the cops led by Brigadier Mohammed who was then police commissioner took the war to the bad guys and there was a huge drop in the carjacking incidents in Nairobi.

Then there was Breathalyzer test we call “alcoblow” in Kenya. With the number of deaths on the roads because of drinking while under the influence becoming unbearable for the authorities they returned the reviled alcoblow because cars weren’t knowing their way home as they used to say. That led to the police setting up road blocks around the city, especially where folks were known to drink and you were tested for the alcoholic level in your blood. That wasn’t just it; to make it more fun the folks had the media in tow so that meant that if you were high not only would you sleep in jail for one night but your would be seen on TV looking like a right tool. This experience led to many hilarious and humiliating experiences to many Nairobians.

The alcoblow experience taught us that maybe we want to try having a designated driver whenever we went drinking. After all as they say in that excellent EABL advert tells us life goes on when you leave us. The designated driver thing doesn’t work so well for all of us as no one wants to be that idiot who is sipping on stoney tangawizi while everyone else is having a gay old time. Thus the rise of the taxi.

The number of taxis in this city is quite impressive with the number of taxi companies and freelancers as a great option for all over us. For the taxi user we all know that there is no metred cab system in Kenya so it’s always at the discretion of the driver that you are using. A user knows the price of your general area. My place in South B usually costs between Kshs500 and Kshs800 depending on the mood of the cabbie.

One of the things that happened is that with this system is that folks start keeping the numbers of the cab guys who they trust and you can be sure that if you look at the cellphones of many folks you would see numbers like “Taxi Mwangi” or “cab John.” There is a flaw with that system though. A good cab guy would have regular clients who would seek him out especially when they are in unfamiliar territory. The flaw is that with a popular cab guy you can wait for a quite a while as he tells you “I’m only ten minutes away” for three hours. Not ideal.

This weekend I found a new way that uses technology. I was told about a mobile application called Easy Taxi about a good pal of mine told me about. I was headed to Ngong town for a kids birthday party (my kid was going for the party, I was going to drink with the adults) just beyond Nest and I needed to use a taxi. I started by downloading the App and installing on my phone and then doing something I avoid at all times; enabling the GPS. I don’t like GPS as it eats up my phone battery and I don’t want big brother following my movements around town. Having installed the app I set my location in the map and this was amazing that I finally found out the name my street which doesn’t have a sign since I moved here. Kudos GPS.

Once I set my location I was able to request for a taxi. As soon as I made a taxi request I was given a call almost instantly by a cab guy trying to get my location. The reason was that the area I was at wasn’t that clear to him from the map where I was. After I explained to him where I was we hang up and I waited for him. It wasn’t too much of a worry as the App said that I would have to wait for only 7 minutes. The app gave me his name, his number, the type of car he was driving as well as the car number plate. This allowed me to know who would be coming to pick me up as it even had a picture of the driver.

After an hour he was nowhere to be seen and my first experience of the Easy Taxi was starting to worry me. Was this like when your typical cab driver tells you that he is just up the road and he at that moment in time dropping off a guy in Kikuyu town? The problem I had was that in my house my Airtel is lousy so I couldn’t even track the driver. I was able to discern that there was the Kids Festival happening at the Carnivore and my part of the city was in gridlock. I had to get into town to see if I could get to the cab guy and when I got in and I called Aaron he wasn’t picking. I opted to try again before calling my usual cab guy. This time I was contacted by a guy called John Njenga and it town I was able to see the Easy Taxi App at its best. I followed on the App on my phone as the cab came from I&M building on Kenyatta Avenue in town to Times Towers on Haile Sellasie as I watched. Brilliant.

When I boarded I indicated that I did (the App insisted on it) and we were off to Ngong. As we headed out I was able to bond with John and he was able to teach me a lot. The new App has been very useful to him. This is because now he was able to see who his customers were without a fear of being car jacked. He also explained to me that he had seen an increase in business because he was able to access new customers. Pretty handy for a taxi driver wishing to increase their business.

On my part the man charged me Kshs3,000 to Ngong town just beyond the Nest which meant that I had to part with only had to part with Kshs2,500 as the was a Kshs500 discount for every ride on this day (part on the reason I was sampling the service). With that price I asked him about the service and how much he would charge me to various parts of the city. It was not horrible. Kshs800-1,000 to Buruburu. Kshs500-1,000 to South B. The prices weren’t daylight robbery because he was a member of the Kenya Taxi Cab Association which is a kind of Sacco where free lance taxi drivers banded together because the more the merrier.

When we got there I put on my GPS to see if there was any cab guys in the area; nothing. I quickly asked Njenga if he was willing to wait for a few hours for me which he accepted.

Would I use the service again? Oh hell yeah!