Uber says they have a solution to the L Train shutdown

by Anthony Sodd
September 2, 2016

With the MTA shutting down the L Train tunnel between Brooklyn and Manhattan for a year and a half, some 225,000 Manhattan-bound L train commuters are in trouble. The MTA has said that shuttle buses will be made available, but anyone who’s ever had the misfortune of riding in one probably isn’t looking forward to the prospect of relying on one long term.

Uber thinks they can help. 

In an opinion article submitted to Newsweek, Josh Mohrer, General Manager of Uber NYC, laid out his vision for how the San Francisco-based ride hailing service could come to rescue.  

In short, Mohrer calls for a combination of the creation of a Bus Rapid Transit and a new Uber option that sounds an awful lot like Waze’s new feature — more on that in minute. 

BRT is kind of like an amalgamation of a bus-service and a subway line, and is used in cities around the world. Basically, it involves turning a lane on a road into a dedicated, separated bus-only lane, which would allow the MTA to run quick bus service between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Buses don't get stuck in traffic, and as such, are much faster. But, the plan would involve removing a lane for car traffic on the Williamsburg Bridge — which handles around 11,000 vehicles a day. So, obviously this plan probably won’t be too popular with drivers. 

This is where Uber’s Commuting Together program comes into play. Uber wants to make it so every driver in the city can use a service that matches drivers with people heading in the same direction — and make a couple of bucks doing it. But, there’s a holdup. 

"It may be surprising to hear this from us, but the truth is that the version of Uber that operates in New York City could never fix this problem, despite enabling more than 1.4 million rides per month in Brooklyn,” Mohrer said in the post. "It is harder to share your ride in New York than in any other place in the nation."

Mohrer said drivers must go through regulatory hurdles before picking someone up. Those include things like getting a license from the Taxi & Limousine Commission, getting special license plates, purchasing commercial insurance and taking over 40 hours of training classes. According to Mohrer, for a carpooling service to really be able to handle the burden of overstretched transport infrastructure, the city and state need to make it easier for anyone to use a service like Commuting Together.

At any rate, no matter what you think about Uber, driver regulations or the L Train, you can always just take a CitiBike. 

You can read Mohrer’s opinion piece here.  

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