The RTA taxi dispatch call centre in Dubai. It now takes about 13 minutes on average for taxis to reach customers, about two minutes less than last year. Image Credit: RTA

Dubai: Taxis booked by phone are arriving faster in Dubai even as demand rises rapidly, new figures suggest.

It takes about 13 minutes on average for taxis to reach customers — around two minutes less than last year’s average wait, said the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA).

The shorter wait — despite more calls to dispatch — is partly because of Hala Taxi, a dedicated service for bookings made by phone, said a senior RTA official.

The reserved fleet has now more than doubled its size to 450 taxis, from 155 taxis when it was launched in late 2013.

The bigger fleet helped in responding to callers. The number of bookings by phone jumped 17 per cent in the first half of this year to 2,598, 261, compared with the same period last year.

Customer satisfaction also seems to be increasing, with officials reporting a significant drop in complaints in the first half of this year.

The number of taxi trips and taxi passengers in the same period both rose by six per cent compared with the first half of 2013, figures released last Monday showed.

The 2014 tally so far accounted for 53.2 million trips carrying 93.6 million passengers.

“All these figures reflect the tremendous work carried out by the RTA to promote Dubai’s civilised image as a tourism and business destination by providing an infrastructure of transport services that are easy to access and secure,” said Dr Yousuf Al Ali, CEO of RTA’s Public Transport Agency.

Automation has also played a role in streamlining taxi services, he added, with more calls handled by the IVR (Interactive Voice Response) system instead of officials.

In the first half of this year, 43 per cent of all calls were guided by IVR compared with 34 per cent in the same period last year.

Meanwhile, the RTA Smart Taxi app, which lets customers book a taxi by simply shaking their smartphone, is providing cab services more mileage.

Between mid June and starting July, some 20,000 people had downloaded it, with 500 bookings made, Adel Shakeri, transportation systems director at the Public Transport Agency, had earlier told Gulf News.

Al Ali said the app was in line with the Smart City initiative to transform Dubai into a hyper-tech city with superfast wireless connections and smart apps delivering public services.

“Smart Taxi is so easy to use, you just shake your phone to book a taxi to your location, which the app automatically detects. That is a very important feature, especially for the elderly and tourists, or those whose vehicles have stopped [stalled] in an unfamiliar location,” Al Ali said.

“The RTA spares no effort in customer satisfaction and meeting their needs by modernising and updating services to keep abreast of technology, in this vital sector that residents and visitors rely on.”

To book a taxi call 04 208 0808