Uber is now offering itself up as an alternative to the L Train shutdown—the latest in a long list of alternatives being offered up for the Canarsie tunnel closure starting 2019. However, the car service company says that in order to be useful, it needs the city to remove some restrictions, Politico reports.
Uber New York’s general manager, Josh Mohrer, has proposed a ride sharing solution to counter L Train commuters’s woes, in an op-ed he penned for Newsweek yesterday. So what exactly is he proposing?
Uber wants to target existing drivers that cross the Williamsburg Bridge to offer other commuters a ride across the bridge. Through their pilot program titled "Commuting Together," drivers making the trip across the bridge will open their Uber app, enter the destination they’re going to, be able to look up other people also wanting to go in the same direction, and pick them up on the way. That, Uber contends, will reduce the number of cars on the street, and allow enough space on the bridge to create a dedicated lane for buses to travel between between the boroughs.
So what’s the hold up? New York’s existing laws don’t quite permit it.
In New York, companies like Uber are required to follow the City’s laborious regulatory structure for professionalized ground transportation. Most of the time the system works fine, but in this case if commuters crossing the Williamsburg bridge wanted to give their neighbor a ride, they would be required to first spend three months getting a license from the Taxi & Limousine Commission, get special license plates for their vehicle, spend thousands of dollars on special commercial insurance, and take over 40 hours of training classes.
That’s how Mohrer explained it in his op-ed. Mohrer hopes that the city will allow Uber to bypass that process and let the 11,000 cars crossing the bridge offer others rides instead. Uber does already offer a carpooling option, but this Mohrer contends will free up traffic even more as more commuters begin relying on the car service when the L Train shuts down. Uber specifically wants to target the drivers already crossing the bridge on a regular basis today (how exactly they will go about that remains to be seen), and they also say this pilot program will only run over the course of the 18-month shutdown.
Both the Taxi & Limousine Commission and the MTA didn’t directly comment on the pilot program. The TLC Commissioner, Meera Joshi, told Politico that the agency was "working with the MTA and all of our regulated industries to mitigate against any transportation gaps created by the 'L' shut down."
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