Editor’s Note: We updated this article on October 21, 2016 and again on April 23, 2017. The ride-hailing app world is a fast moving one, and on both occasions we had some changes to report.
Navigating New York City has become a different beast in recent years—with the advent of Citibikes and Uber, all of a sudden options for getting from point A to point B have multiplied, especially in the outer boroughs.
And then, of course, Uber competitors have cropped up, and the taxi industry finally got the hint that it was time to innovate, meaning that now there are more apps to choose from than ever. Here’s our guide to the best apps for getting around the Big Apple…
Curb (formerly Way2Ride)
This app hails yellow taxis (or the newer green ones), which then show up at your location and wait up to four minutes for you to get in. In February 2017, Way2Ride became Curb, and while I’ve downloaded the new app, I haven’t yet used it. Still, until recently, Way2Ride was my app of choice, far more reliable than Uber and with none of the dreaded surge pricing nonsense, which means that when it’s raining during rush hour, you won’t spend your monthly rent getting to your destination. One driver told me that drivers get charged $10 for canceling a ride once they’ve accepted it, which would explain the reliability. These positives all still apply, however Curb charges a “service fee” on each fare of up to $2 in addition to the fare, making shorter trips far less cost effective.
Juno is a competitor to Uber and Lyft with a mandate to treat its drivers better than the aforementioned. So far, the Juno drivers I’ve spoken with are thrilled with the company. (You can read about its business philosophy in depth in this New Yorker article.) And from the passenger’s perspective? Juno is consistently cheaper than both Uber and Lyft, although fares seem to be creeping upward. For now, Juno has taken its place as my number one choice.
Sure, Uber is the one that started it all, but it’s also the one known for its lack of regard for both customers and its drivers. In my experience, an Uber ride more often than not costs more than a cab covering the same route, and it always seems like when you need one the most, prices are surging out of control–although anecdotally, I’ve been getting hit with surge pricing less often recently. Also, Uber drivers can cancel rides at will, while riders can get charged for doing so. Uber is rarely my number one choice, but it’s worth having it set up on your phone just in case (and for use in other cities). Note that Uber is under increasing pressure to add a tipping option to its app, which would probably ultimately result in riders paying more per ride.
Lyft’s service is pretty similar to Uber’s. The company is a little less forthcoming about when surge pricing goes into effect, but caps it at three times the normal rate, unlike Uber. Anecdotal evidence shows that Lyft treats its drivers slightly better than does Uber. As for user experience, though, the two services are pretty tit for tat, although Lyft’s app does already have a tipping option.
With it’s $10 flat rate for trips that start and end below 110th Street within Manhattan, this app is great for rides between Midtown, downtown, the Financial District and the Upper West and Upper East Sides. My friend Ashley, who is a frequent customer, told me that she chooses it over the other apps when in the outer boroughs because it doesn’t impose surge pricing and reliably gets a car to her. I’ve used it a couple of times between Brooklyn and Manhattan, and the price seems a little higher than other apps. That said, the price you’re quoted before the ride is the price you pay, unlike other apps which only offer a pre-ride estimate.
NYC taxis run on one of two computer systems, and Arro serves the one that Curb doesn’t. Consensus seems to be that so far, Curb is the superior option, both in terms of its technology and its reliability. However, I haven’t yet used it myself.
This app’s angle is flat rates for shared rides only, but of course it’s not quite that straightforward in practice. Customers pay a flat rate of $5 for rides within Manhattan, always shared with others. This rate applies only on weekdays between 6am and 8pm, however. At other times in Manhattan, and all the time in other boroughs, rides are based on length, just like all the other apps. I’ve downloaded the app, but haven’t yet used it. Personally, if I have to share a space with strangers, I may as well take the subway.
The Old-Fashioned Hail
In certain parts of the city, most notably Midtown during rush hour and places like the West Village and Lower East Side on weekend nights, the old hand-in-the-air technique can still prove the most successful one. Highly recommended when traffic looks jammed.
Karhoo shut down in late 2016 before even launching in NYC.