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Cabbies Honked Off About City Choosing 2 'Universal' Taxi Apps

By Ted Cox | January 12, 2016 5:45am
 Cabbies complain two taxi apps might be too much of a good thing.
Cabbies complain two taxi apps might be too much of a good thing.
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CITY HALL — Cabbies are raising objections over the city's selection of two "universal" taxi ride-hailing apps.

David Kreisman, spokesman for Cab Drivers United, said Thursday the union local is "disappointed that instead of deciding on a 'universal' app that would allow passengers to hail any cab as promised, the city has endorsed dual, competing technologies."

City officials announced Wednesday that after a six-month search for a taxi app allowing cabbies to compete with upstart firms like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar, it had selected Arro and Verifone's Curb as the authorized services. The city's 12,700 cabbies will have to connect with one or the other by Feb. 1.

Asked to explain the double selection, a city spokeswoman deflected the question.

Chicago is "the first city to mandate their entire taxi fleet sign up with an app so all passengers have more options for electronically hailing transportation," said Mika Stambaugh, spokeswoman for the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, which oversees the taxi and ride-sharing industries. "It is up to the taxicab driver which app they want to sign up with, but they can sign up for both Verifone Curb and Arro."

The logistics, however, are needlessly complicated, according to Kreisman.

"Both of these apps are tied to physical hardware in the cab, which means cab drivers and passengers will have to choose," he said.

"By endorsing dual apps, the city is creating unnecessary barriers between passengers and the professional transportation service cab drivers provide," Kreisman added.

And while both Verifone and Arro submitted initial statements saying they were thrilled to be selected, they aren't exactly enthusiastic about the competition either.

"Yes, of course we would have preferred to be the universal taxi app!" Verifone spokesman Jason Gross said. "Ultimately, it will be up to the taxi riders to decide what works best for them, and that may mean that the two apps will continue to provide Chicagoans with options for paying and hailing cabs."

Verifone's Curb claims to be in Chicago cars already, and it will merge with its Way2ride system to expand to other cities, while Arro has already established itself in New York City.

The good news for riders, though, is that both have agreed not to institute surge pricing, keeping taxi rates steady, while the upstart competitors let theirs fluctuate with momentary supply and demand.

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