Taxi app test-drive: Uber, Lyft, Gett, Arro vs. hailing a yellow cab by hand

Driver Pasang Lama said he’d been working for Lyft since the start of 2015. “It’s okay,” he said. “It’s not that busy.” In comparison to yellow cabs, which he drove in the past, working with Lyft was more convenient and he made more money. But like a lot of drivers who use apps, he also works for Uber. “They are both the same,” he said. But Uber was “busier.”

Lyft didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Time and cost: It took approximately three minutes to get a car. It cost $8, though it was discounted by $6 under a promotion. Lyft estimates the cost at $8 between Herald Square and the Port Authority.

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Photo Credit: Cristian Salazar

Unlike the other apps, the map for Gett showed only one car in the vicinity of the pickup spot at the Port Authority on Eighth Avenue. The driver’s name and the type of car, a Toyota Camry, showed up on the app but not an actual picture of the vehicle (which differed from Uber and Lyft). At one point, the car was shown on the map two minutes away from the pickup, but then it appeared blocks away and unlikely to arrive in midtown traffic within that time. The time on the map then dropped to one minute, then climbed back up to two minutes. The car was still located 4 miles from the pickup location, the map said.

By the time driver Oumar Seck called to say he’d arrived at the spot, the car was nowhere to be seen. He said he was parked around the block on 40th Street. A short walk up the block and the car was seen parked off to the side, its hazards blinking.

“We have problems sometimes with Gett navigation,” he admitted. “It tells you a different location. That’s why they say when you’re coming to call your pickup.”

Seck, who has been driving for the service for about a year, said he was happy with it. “It’s good. Pretty good.” But he said there are not enough drivers on Gett to meet the demand. Still, he is convinced that by the end of the year that will be resolved since the company has been aggressively courting drivers.

“The only problem they have is the system, the navigation,” he said. “Uber will always be here. But Gett will compete. They will be on their back.”

Gett didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Time and cost: It took approximately 19 minutes to get a car. The ride cost $11.85 with $2 tip. The app estimates that the base cost of a ride between the Port Authority and Herald Square should be $8.98.

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Photo Credit: Cristian Salazar

The days when the most popular way to hail a cab may be fading from the streets, with a rush of smartphone apps allowing commuters to call a ride with a few swipes.

But one thing hasn’t changed: Midtown Manhattan traffic.

A test-drive of some of the most popular apps, between Herald Square and the Port Authority, compared to the traditional method of hailing taxis, demonstrated that even newfangled technology may be no match for the crush of vehicles that clog some of the island’s busiest streets.

However, some factors increased the chances that a commuter could hail a ride quickly and efficiently — especially whether a particular service had enough cars available on the road to meet demand and whether they had a robust navigation system. Those two factors could mean the difference between time spent waiting for a cab and the cab actually picking you up at the right spot.

For the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission, having more options is good for commuters.

“It’s TLC’s priority to ensure that passengers can choose from a variety of options ranging from high tech to hand hail, and that they get the benefit of all of our consumer protections no matter which method they choose,” said TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi.

Here’s what we learned from our quick commuter test drive — a by no means scientific study, but a taste of the new world of taxi riding.

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