Travel Tuesday: Curb App Review — Trying the Cab Service in Chicago
When I was in New York last year, it was the first time in a long time that I remember being in a taxi (as opposed to a rideshare like Uber or Lyft). During that ride, I saw an advertisement for an app called Arro, which I then used to hail a cab later in the week and then reviewed. Well, while in Chicago this weekend, I once again opted to jump in a cab and happened to see an ad for a similar-seeming app called Curb. So, once again, I decided to give it a shot.
So, what is Curb and is it worth it? Let’s take a look at my experience with the app.
Curb: What it is and How it Works
Creating an account
After downloading the Curb app, creating an account is relatively easy. First, you’ll need to provide some basic info, such as your name, phone number, and email. You’ll also be asked to create an account password. Once you’ve entered this, you’ll need to confirm your phone number by relaying the six-digit code that will be sent via SMS.
The next step in setting up your Curb account is to select a payment method. This can include entering a credit card or linking to PayPal. In my case, I went for the credit card option, which was straightforward. After this, I was ready to begin using Curb.
One of the benefits of Curb is that it helps make taxi pricing more transparent and easier to compare to rideshare options. When requesting a ride with Curb, you’ll see the price total. However, if you’re curious, you can see Chicago’s pricing info, including the base rate, mileage rate, etc.
A big perk of cabs (with Curb or without) is that they don’t utilize surge pricing. As a result, when we took a cab from McCormick Place to the Starbucks Roastery on Michigan Avenue, we found that our total cab fare was less than half of what the same ride would have cost us from Uber due to surge pricing. On that note, after seeing the Uber quote, we chose to hop in a cab parked at McCormick — which is when we were introduced to Curb.
Pair & Pay
Like with Arro, with Curb, you can connect to an in-progress cab ride in order to pay via the app. This was quite easy to do as I just needed to tap the “Pair & Pay” option from the app’s homescreen and enter the cab number, which was displayed in the upper right corner of the cab’s backseat video screen.
Almost immediately after entering the number, the driver was informed that the pairing had been paid. Admittedly, I was a bit startled by the loud voice in the cab that announced when I had successfully connected to the cab’s payment platform. With this connection, I was able to select my tip amount.
Something kind of funny is that, after pairing my account, the app served me various offers and deals. For example, the first was an offer to sign up for the Apple Card while the second was for CLEAR — both of which I already happen to have.
It turned out that using Curb helped make things smoother upon our arrival as we were able to simply hop out at the intersection rather than wait to go through the credit card payment interface. As we exited, I got notification that the payment was complete and the receipt was viewable in the app.
One slightly disappointing aspect of my Pair & Pay experience was that I couldn’t find a way to update my tip. That’s unfortunate since, although I had selected a higher tip, it seemed as though a temporary error resulted in it choosing the lower default one instead. I’m not exactly sure what happened there and I feel bad for the driver, but at least everything was smooth on my end.
Hailing cabs via Curb
In addition to the Pair & Pay feature, the other aspect of Curb is that you can use it to hail taxis in a fashion similar to how you’d request an Uber. This includes the ability to enter your location and destination in order to view your fare and book a ride. Furthermore, you can book a ride for a specified time in the future, which could definitely be beneficial for airport trips or other pre-planned journeys.
After our Pair & Pay experience on the way to the Starbucks Roastery, I decided to give the e-hailing feature a shot on the way back. Strolling down Michigan Avenue for a bit, I found a strip of road that I thought would be safe for a cab to stop and pick us up. Plus, I was able to find a Chipotle and the street address so I could provide the most accurate location data. What was nice was that the ride was set to cost us about $13 — which, again, was far less than what Uber was asking for.
Sadly, this is where the issues began. After requesting the ride, I waited… and waited… and waited some more. A solid five minutes later, I still hadn’t been matched to a car. I did wait for a little bit longer but, after looking up directions and fares for the L, we opted to cancel and take a train instead. Although I intended to give Curb another chance later in the weekend, that opportunity never came. So, at this time, I have yet to successfully use the e-hailing service on the app. Womp womp.
Final Thoughts on Curb
Overall, I’m glad I downloaded Curb as it made it easier to complete my cab ride in Chicago and save money versus taking an Uber. Unfortunately, while the Pair & Pay feature worked well enough, the e-hailing feature was a flop for me. It could be argued that I was just in a bad location, should have given the app more time, or should have simply tried again. However, the truth is that, in the moment, the app failed to come through and do what it was built to do.
So is Curb worth downloading? I’d say the answer is “potentially” if you happen to be in a supported cab and want to use the Pair & Pay feature. Incidentally, it looks as though Arro operates in Chicago as well (just as Curb also operates in New York), so perhaps I should have tried that to see if it could find me a ride when Curb came up short.
Ultimately, while I still like the idea of Curb, it’s hard to fully recommend given my initial experience. Nevertheless, I’ll leave it on my phone to try again the next time I happen to be in the Windy City or other markets where the service operates.