Like many cities, Seoul struggles to offer a reliable late night taxi service. Far too often taxi drivers turn passengers away or insist on high flat-rate fares. Demand-made night van service Callbus has been introduced to offer alternatives in late night transit.
Callbus works as a collective taxi van that carries groups of passengers travelling in a similar direction. In the app, the user selects their current location and how many people are in their party. The app then replies with a location to board the bus, usually at the nearest main road. The Callbus driver is already informed of the final destination and through the app’s algorithm-based route-guidance, the fastest route is instantly entered into the Callbus driver’s GPS.
The service launched a free trial version in the district of Gangnam back in December and received positive citizen reviews. Callbus served an average of 50-60 passengers per night during 11pm-4am in its first month. The app has since expanded to other regions within Seoul.
Callbus has received strong opposition from the taxi cab community, as drivers are worried about competition. However, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport has concluded that there is a need for an alternative service which taxis and buses cannot offer. “We see a rising demand for the Callbus service,” a Ministry official said. “The key here is to create an environment where the bus and taxi companies can co-exist.”
The government is currently working on revising related transportation laws to allow taxi companies to start mini-bus services of their own. The ministry is considering allowing any bus or taxi company to offer the Callbus service using vans with at least 11 seats.
Fares for the service are also being discussed. “The goal is to make it half the taxi rate.” Says Callbus CEO Steve Park. “We are currently looking at a base fare of ₩2,000 (€1,50) for the first 4 kilometers, and ₩600-700 (about €0,50) for every additional kilometer.”