Nicki Minaj vs. Miley Cyrus. Meek Mill vs. Drake. Donald Trump vs. immigrants. Taxis vs. Uber. These are some of the defining feuds of 2015, though, there’s been some bad blood between traditional taxi and cab services and the ride-sharing app Uber for several years now. In efforts to regain some sort of advantage over the prevalence of Uber in the market, a new app is set to give taxis in New York City a fighting chance against Uber.
A new app called Arro is currently in beta testing in New York City that allows people to hail yellow and green New York cabs using their smartphone. The app has partnered with Creative Mobile Technologies, a major provider for New York cab payment services. Arro works similarly to Uber in that users open the app and input their destination to hail a taxi to shuttle them off, but Arro has one huge advantage over Uber – the service has no surge pricing.
Surge pricing in Uber is the company’s notoriously sneaky way to milk more money out of its customers, where the company will increase rates and fares during what they determine to be peak times of activity and demand, normally encompassing late night hours, weekends and during crappy weather. Arro has no such price gouging: customers simply pay the fares set for taxis and cabs within the city by the Taxi and Limousine Commission. While in many instances it might still be cheaper for customers to take Uber, especially in New York City where the app’s Uber pool feature of sharing a ride with another customer gets you anywhere in Manhattan below 96th Street for $10, the standard and consistent rates of a taxi service are an attractive and comforting offer when Uber can surge prices up to 3 times their normal charge.
Arro seems to be coming at just the right time for taxi and cab services, especially in New York City where, in March, the number of Uber drivers eclipsed the number of taxi and cab drivers in a city quite literally built around the service. Since Uber’s popularity has burgeoned, taxi services have complained about the service, mostly around labor issues and the fact that Uber drivers have been deemed by the company, and the decision of several court cases, to be independent contractors, not employees. That all changed recently in June when the California Labor Commission’s Office ruled in favor of an Uber driver that she should be classified as an employee of the service. Uber is in the process of appealing the ruling, which for the first time argued and laid out reasons why Uber drivers should be classified as employees and susceptible to benefits employees would receive, such as being reimbursed for business expenses in this particular instance.
Taxi and cab companies have been doing all they can to counter Uber’s usurping of their long dominated market by arguing that they employ professional drivers to drive customers around. Recently, taxi services have been working overtime and going the extra step to rally consumers by actively stopping and asking people if they need rides as opposed to simply driving by waiting to be hailed. Uber has made the urgency and frustration around hailing cabs, especially in cities like New York, moot by being able to order and request a ride through the app.
Arro is expected to launch in full in New York City within the coming weeks, with its sights set on expanding to cities like Chicago, San Francisco and Boston soon thereafter. These cities arguably aren’t as heavily reliant on taxi service as New York, so it remains to be seen whether Arro can carry the taxi industry back up from obscurity to get on some sort of equal footing with Uber and other rival ride-sharing services. Still, with another on-demand option available for customers to quickly and effectively order a car to take them where they want to be, Arro might prove to be a Band-Aid to the ailing taxi industry.