Cabs, Car Services and the Apps That Hail Them


Arro_01The way we get around the city when we decide to take a car service or taxi has changed dramatically over the past year. For one, green cabs now pepper intersections in Brooklyn where hailing a taxi would have once been a fool’s errand. Hiring a car service, and paying for it with a credit card, is faster and easier than ever, and ride-sharing services and apps have popped up to save us all cash.

To figure out who offers the best ride, I downloaded Uber, Lyft, and the new NYC taxi cab app Arro on my Android, and picked locations within a comparable distance of around one mile, all in North Brooklyn–Greenpoint and Williamsburg–to make the trips as similar as possible. My criteria to compare each service was simple. In each case I noted:

1) Ease of app
2) Cost
3) Distance
4) Timeliness

I then went on a trial-by-car-service ride along to see what kind of lift I could get on a date night with my boyfriend. The plan: Meet for happy hour, followed by dinner and a movie. Our night began at duckduck bar in Bushwick (for their excellent two-for-one happy hour, which includes cheese puffs), before the movie.

Testing Arro The newest teched-up rider service to hit New York, Arro is only a month old, and boasts that it allows users to avoid Uber’s infamous surge prices. When we were ready to head to Williamsburg Cinema from duckduck, I pulled up the Arro app and hailed a cab. The app feels very much like Uber or Lyft–an interactive map pops up, with a location wand in place for you and your cab. It asks whether you are “In a Taxi” ready to check in and add your payment; or if you “Need a Taxi” to get to where you’re going.

I clicked “Need a Taxi,” and a new screen opened to confirm that I would take any taxi, as soon as possible, and that my credit card was on file. A separate editable screen also appeared with a request for more details about my location, including landmarks and storefronts.

I confirmed, without adding any additional information, and the app let me know that a taxi was three minutes away, and sent me a taxi number ID. It was a little weird that the app didn’t ask for my final destination, but I didn’t consider it too much of a set back for a brand new system being integrated into cabs across New York City. Three or so minutes later, my cab appeared. Before unlocking the door, the driver rolled down his window and said, “Are you Shelby?” I confirmed and climbed in.

Once you are in the cab, the app mirrors onto the display screen in the back seat, and allows you to update information as needed, including adding a tip by percentage. Our cab driver, Pietro Cirone, was chatty, and happy to share his experience with the new app. Overall, he wasn’t impressed with Arro yet, especially because it is not linked to GPS, so your exact location cannot display for the driver. I mean, first world problems, but still a nuisance if you are not a seasoned driver.

“Uber gives you a visual course,” Pietro said incredulously. “This, I gotta find my own way. Can we please update the system!?” After ranting about the obvious differences between cabs and Ubers and their apps, he got us to our destination, told me he loved me (?), and printed a receipt. My ride was $13 including tip for 1.6 miles.

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