The Arro app, already operating in New York, Boston, San Francisco and Chicago, combines the dispatch for Houston's 146 taxi companies.
(TNS) — Houston residents soon will be able to hail a city cab via smartphone app, after City Council signed off on a plan Wednesday to consolidate dispatching in a single program.
The Arro app, already operating in New York, Boston, San Francisco and Chicago, is expected to be fully operational in Houston by the end of the month, combining dispatch for Houston's 146 taxi companies. The city is requiring all of its roughly 9,000 licensed cab and limo drivers to participate.
"It is innovative. It's taking advantage of technology that exists to create a centralized dispatch service," Turner told City Council. "If you go to the airports, you've got cabs that are sitting there pretty much six, eight hours a day, waiting on a customer. Under this system, they can be out there servicing Houstonians. They don't lose their place in line, and when it's time for them to do something, they get a ping."
Cab and limo companies had urged the city to develop an alternative to Uber, which dominates Houston's ride market. Uber and other ride share drivers would not be included in the Arro app.
No taxpayer money will be used to develop or advertise the app, though city staff will coordinate with Arro, and elected officials could devote time to promoting the program.
Riders who use the app would pay $1.50 on top of the cab fare, and drivers would pay 50 cents for each app-generated trip, plus 3 percent of the total fare for a credit processing fee.
City Councilman Greg Travis objected to requiring drivers to use the app, saying, "I don't really like government having to mandate anything."
He also worried about Arro's ratings - 2.5 stars in the Apple iTunes store - and pointed to other apps with better reviews.
Turner said many of the companies Travis cited do not operate in the United States.
"Let's not compare what we have competitively bid with companies that do not do business on the North American continent," Turner said.
The mayor added that the city is requiring all licensed cab drivers to participate in part because some of them have contracts that otherwise would prevent them from using the app.
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