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Montauk taxi companies set to launch Uber-inspired app

Mark Ripolone, owner of Ditch Plains Taxi, stands

Mark Ripolone, owner of Ditch Plains Taxi, stands outside at the Montauk railroad station in Montauk, June 18, 2015. His is one of the companies that will be part of the new app-based taxi service, Gata Hub, which beginning in July will provide taxi service in the Hamptons through local cab companies. Photo Credit: Gordon M. Grant

Some East End officials and taxi owners are hoping a new smartphone-based app scheduled to launch July 1 in East Hampton Town will be a remedy for cab riders experiencing Uber withdrawal.

Toronto-based Gata Labs will partner with three Montauk-based taxi companies -- Ditch Plains Taxi, Moko Taxi and The End Taxi -- to offer the Gata Hub app, which operates on the Android system and the iPhone. The companies, which approached Gata Labs about the app, will provide 13 cabs, with plans to add more.

"Everybody is just lost because of this technology addiction," said Mark Ripolone, owner of Ditch Plains Taxi. He added that his company and Moko Taxi's minimum rates for the Montauk area -- between $10 and $12 for one or two passengers, and $5 per person for a group -- will not change because of the app. The End Taxi charges a minimum rate of about $9.50 for one or two people; its group rates are based on the passenger count and the distance traveled, but they are generally 50 cents extra for each extra person.

But some Uber customers are already griping about how the new operation won't work as they wince at the thought of relying on local cabs whose availability has long been a source of complaints.

Uber, the popular app-based ride-booking service, pulled out of East Hampton earlier this month after company representatives said they could not adhere to the town's requirement that all Uber drivers have a local address.

Things took another detour over the Memorial Day weekend when 23 drivers were charged with violating the town's licensing law. Some of them have entered not-guilty pleas; they face up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000 if convicted of the misdemeanor.

While Mike Heather, owner of Moko, said Uber's presence during Memorial Day weekend cut his normal business by nearly 40 percent, Ripolone said the new app will give the local taxi companies an opportunity to work together.

Supervisor Larry Cantwell said it's not about local cab companies versus outsiders.

"Since Uber withdrew from the market there have been any number of phone calls from companies and individuals wanting to do business in town using some technology for the customer," he said. "The technology that Uber and others are using is obviously the way that business is headed. But it's good that other businesses are adapting as well."

Uber customers like Jon Steinberg don't see themselves adapting well to Gata Hub. The Manhattan resident is chief executive of, the world's largest English-language newspaper website. His wife and two young children are frequent visitors to East Hampton in the summer, and his father is a 30-year resident.

"It's insanity," Steinberg said. "The taxis here are unreliable and don't show up, and the cabs are not in good condition. I'm sure it won't work."

Mike Steib, a website executive who owns a summer home in East Hampton, agreed.

"While it's great to see local cab companies innovating, their service is inferior and an app doesn't change that," he said.


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