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Boston Taxis Take Ride Hailing Apps Head-On

To compete with Lyft and Uber, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has adopted Arro, its own mobile ride sharing app.

(TNS) -- The taxicab industry is finally trying to compete with the innovation of Uber and Lyft — resulting in more e-hailing options than ever for travelers here in Boston.

The new app Arro debuted in Boston this month and is now available in 1,200 taxis, the vast majority of the local fleet. It operates like Uber and Lyft — tap to hail a driver, watch and share your route, and then pay via the app. There’s currently no extra charge to use the app, and there’s no surge pricing during peak times. Other than having to enter a 7-digit code that you’ll find inside the cab to pay for your ride, Arro’s process should be familiar to Uber and Lyft customers.

App creator Mike Epley makes a bold claim: that overall, Arro provides a more reliable experience than Uber and Lyft.

“When you tap the button for the ride, we expect you’re going to get the ride faster and that it will show up sooner,” he said. “And when you get in the vehicle, you have a professional licensed driver who will get you there. They’re not going to use the GPS. They’re not going to know where to go. This is their livelihood.”

It’ll be interesting to see how that claim pans out. One of the most innovative aspects of e-hailing is the ability to share rides.

But there’s no talk of actual ride-sharing when it comes to Arro — nor with its closest competitor, Way2ride.

Way2ride is another e-hailing platform for the cab industry, and it connects to Apple Pay and Google Wallet and debuted recently in Boston as well. It’s designed by San Jose-based electronic payments company Verifone, and works only with licensed cabbies.

The fact that it’s now possible to shop around for transportation — both as a driver looking for the best platform or a passenger looking for the best service — is good news. The competition should deal a blow to Uber’s much-reviled surge pricing (which incidentally was 2x during rush hour yesterday when I was trying to get home to finish this column).

Also taking on Uber and Lyft is Boston-based Fasten, which debuted late last year with more than $9 million in funding from venture capitalist Evgeny Lvov, who founded the company.

Fasten takes less of a cut than competitors — just $1 from each ride, and offers a flat $5 fare for any ride under 20 minutes.

Fasten isn’t the only Boston-based mode of alternative transportation. Bridj, an on-demand shuttle, wants to do for buses what Uber did for taxis, and it’s based on Newbury Street. Rather than use the same static routes as your usual city bus routes, Bridj, through a bit of technological sorcery, designs routes dynamically by determining where demand is highest. Fares range between $3 to $6 — slightly more than traditional public transit, but considerably less than your typical Uber or cab fare.

MBTA bus riders should rejoice at Bridj, which recently launched an on-demand bus service in Kansas City by partnering with Ford.

Another MBTA alternative — Boston-based as well! — is Skedaddle. Its routes are also fluid: they go live when 10 people reserve a seat. It’s like a crowd-sourced chartered bus, and I could see it taking some market share from the Commuter Rail if it becomes more well-known.

©2016 the Boston Herald Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.