Travel Tuesday: Arro App Review – Hailing an NYC Cab with My Phone
Having been born in New Jersey and growing up loving New York City, I occasionally like to fancy myself as someone well in the know when it comes to Manhattan. Alas, this illusion falls apart pretty quickly when I’m actually there. For example, not only can I not navigate the subway in fewer than three tries but I’ve also never hailed a taxi in my life. So, while it’s easy enough for me to find the cab stand at the airport to get to my hotel, it’s the getting back to the airport part that intimidates me. In fact, on a 2018 trip to the city, I asked the front desk to call me a cab but ended up sitting in the back of a black car wondering just how much this trip was going to cost me and what to do if things went south (metaphorically, not exactly literally). So, when I saw an ad for the app Arro while taking a taxi to my NYC hotel earlier this month, I was intrigued. Sure enough, I decided to give the app a try for my return to LGA a couple of days later.
So what is Arro, how does it work, and what are the pros and cons when compared to rideshare apps? Let’s take a look at my personal experience using Arro.
What is Arro and How Does it Work?
What is Arro?
Arro is an app that allows users to hail licensed cabs in a similar fashion to how you’d use Uber or Lyft apps to request a rideshare pickup. While I recently discovered and used the app in New York, it’s apparently also available in the major U.S. cities of Boston, Chicago, Houston, Miami, and San Fransisco as well as the international city of London. Although I can’t speak to how exactly the app functions in those other cities, I will be sharing my NYC experience from here on out.
To register an account with Arro, you can choose to sign-up with Facebook or an email address. With the latter, you’ll be asked for your name and email as well as a password you’d like to use. Then, you’ll also need to enter a phone number and confirm it by using a code that will be texted to you.
Next comes the process of adding a method of payment. For this, you can select to use Masterpass or enter a credit/debit card. This screen is also where you can enter any applicable promo codes you may have, as well as set your default tip percentage. Once these steps are completed, you’ll be ready to request your first ride.
Finding a cab
Hailing a cab with Arro is incredibly simple — especially if you’ve ever used any rideshare app before. First, tap the “I need to hail a taxi” option, then enter your current location and where you’re headed. Once you do this, the app will show you a map of your route, a look at your current estimated pick-up time, and your fare. If all looks good, you can double-check your payment method, set a tip percentage, and tap “Request a Ride.” Once you do so, you’ll be connected with a driver and you should be on your way shortly.
Connecting to a hailed cab
While I used Arro to hail a cab, the app can also be used in another way. If you’re in a taxi that supports Arro, you can use the app to pay and tip. To do this, you’ll first tap the “I’m already in a taxi” option and then will need to enter the seven-digit check-in code that’s displayed on the cab’s screen. After that, you can select your payment and tip.
I should note that I didn’t actually try this part of Arro seeing as I was mostly interested in using it to hail a car. But, I suppose it’s a convenient option that can also save you time at the end of your trip.
Pricing and fees
When you look up a fare on Arro, the app will give you a “guaranteed rate” that your trip won’t exceed… well, almost. Despite that wording, before booking, you will be informed that this upfront pricing does not include any tolls you might encounter. It also doesn’t include a tip, although that one should be a given. On that note, as I mentioned earlier, you can pre-select a tip percentage when placing your ride request.
One nice thing about that rate is that it does include any surcharges, of which there are a few. First, according to their site, a service fee of up to $2 will apply to all e-hail rides (sure enough, this did show up on my bill). Elsewhere, customers can make ride reservations up to 48 hours in advance, but this can come with a fee of up to $3. On the other end of things, a cancelation fee of $3 may apply if you call off your ride after requesting — although you will have 90 seconds from the time a driver is assigned to you to cancel without penalty. Lastly, should you fail to meet your ride within three minutes of their arrival, you’ll be assessed a $5 no-show fee. Thankfully, none of these aside from the service fee impacted my trip, but riders should still be aware of these potential costs.
The pickup and payment process
Like with rideshare apps, once my ride was requested, I was able to see the name and cab number of my driver and could see how far away they were. Then, once they arrived, the screen in the back displayed a “Welcome, Kyle” message on it and the Arro logo was present at the top of the screen during our ride. Also notable is that the fare of $45 was already displayed (which was actually lower than the $48 max we were quoted but didn’t include the $2 service fee).
When we arrived at our destination, we were able to complete our payment using the app. Plus, the driver gave us a paper copy, which I oddly appreciated. From there, we were on our way — basking in the glory of my successful trip.
After your trip
With your ride complete, you’ll be able to view your trip in the app, including a breakdown of your fare, tip, and fees. Here, you can also put in a request to look for a lost item, dispute a charge, or ask for your receipt to be re-sent. I didn’t need to use any of these options, but it does look like the first two simply open up support e-mails to send, so perhaps they aren’t as useful as you might hope. Nevertheless, they are there if needed.
The Pros and Cons of Arro vs. Uber/Lyft
One of the key benefits that Arro advertises is a lack of surge pricing. Sure enough, this ended up being a big factor in my decision to try it over Uber for my return trip to the airport. Despite the fact that I was headed against traffic at the time, due to demand, my ride to LGA from Seaport was quoted at more than $90 with Uber. While this later fell closer to $60 by the time I was actually ready to leave, the $48 fare Arro was quoting me was still a better deal in my opinion. Thus, if nothing else, I’d recommend at least checking Arro prices if you’re seeing ridiculous prices for Ubers or Lyfts at a given time.
The ride experience
In terms of the actual ride experience, I’d personally have to give the edge to rideshares. While I know some people have horror stories involving Uber or Lyft drivers, I’ve never had any issues myself. Furthermore, the cars I end up in are usually pretty nice and clean. Meanwhile, although I wouldn’t call either cab we were in dirty, each did leave something to be desired, with our van giving off a big utilitarian vibe for sure. Basically, if you’re not a fan of cabs in general, using an app to hail one likely isn’t going to change your mind.
Turning to an advantage that both Arro and rideshares have over hailing a cab the old-fashioned way is the ability to enter exactly where you’re going. Case in point: when we hopped into our cab from the airport, I told the driver the address of the hotel… only to have them look blankly back at me. To assist, I told them the general neighborhood we were headed so we’d at least be moving in the right direction. This worked well enough — but, as we got close, the driver took a wrong turn and eventually requested that I pull up my GPS (which I had already done to make sure we weren’t going too far out of the way to begin with). Of course, this isn’t an issue when returning to such a well-known landmark as LaGuardia, but it’s still nice to know that the driver has your destination punched up and ready to go.
Final Thoughts on the Arro App
Overall, I think that using Arro turned out to be the right call for me on my NYC trip. In short, the app really combines what I like about rideshares — upfront pricing, destination entry and GPS, etc. — with the ubiquity of big-city cab systems. Of course, this isn’t to say that there aren’t downsides to consider, such as the overall ride experience, but those are mostly offset by the pricing difference I saw on this particular trip.
One question I do have is how well the service might work in an area where more cabs (and cars in general) are present. As it turned out, in the area of Seaport where we were, there weren’t many cabs coming by, making it even more helpful to have the ability to hail one remotely. Meanwhile, if we were in, say, Midtown, I could see it being pretty confusing for Arro cabs to find their passengers and vice versa. Thus, in these situations, those braver than me might just want to try the old-fashioned way.
Nevertheless, if you’re headed to one of the cities where Arro is supported, I definitely think it’s worth downloading just to add another option to your travel transportation arsenal.
Also published on Medium.