Yet another taxi app is taking to New York’s streets, joining Uber, Lyfft and Hailo in the scramble for the hearts, minds and cash of the city’s footsore residents.
But SheTaxi, which launches in the city, Long Island and Westchester County on 16 September, has a USP. The cars will be driven by women, and will only transport parties that contain at least one female passenger.
Here’s how it works. When you load up the app, it will ask whether you’re female and, if not, whether there are any women in your party. If the answer’s no, it’ll helpfully recommend other taxi apps. The drivers will be identifiable by their, er, bright pink pashminas. According to photos released by Reuters, the words, “By women – For women” will be emblazoned in pink on the car’s hood.
The idea is the brainchild of Stella Mateo, the wife of the founder of the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers. She told the New York Times she came up with the idea when she realised how much happier she’d have been putting her daughters in taxis while they were growing up if she knew there would be a woman driving.
Mateo also saw SheTaxi as a way to encourage more women into the driving industry: only 5 per cent of the city’s hire cars and 1 per cent of its yellow taxis are driven by women.
Gender specific taxi services aren’t a new concept, though SheTaxi will be the first to operate in NYC. In India, there’s a women-only cab company of the same name; New Zealand has Cabs for Women; in Britain, there’s LadyChauffeurs and (here we go again) Pink Ladies.
Meanwhile, women-only public transport also seems to be on the rise: São Paulo’s considering introducing women-only metro carriages; operators in Japan have used them since 2000. Mexico, meanwhile, has had women-only buses since 2008.
In Saudi Arabia, women are discouraged from using most forms of transport apart from cars with drivers, albeit for very different reasons. Perhaps we should be concerned that threats of harassment are pushing us back towards gender-segregated transport, which in the past, was the hallmark of a less-than-equal society.