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Uber wants to be New York's L train shutdown savior

Engadget Engadget 1/09/2016 Roberto Baldwin
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New York commuters are bracing for the 18 month closure of the L train that will disrupt the daily commute of 225,000 people. Scheduled to shut down in 2019, the artery between Manhattan and Brooklyn will be undergoing repairs for damage done by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Yeah, it's going to suck.

In a Newsweek op-ed Uber's General Manager of NYC, Josh Mohrer proposed temporarily lifting a ban on unregulated drivers to help ferry commuters across the Williamsburg Bridge to reduce some of the expected congestion brought on by the L train shutdown. The ride-sharing company would use its new Commuting Together service to help people already driving into the Manhattan find passengers going along the same route.

Mohrer says that in addition to the running Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) shuttles across the bridge, a pilot program of its Commuting Together system could potentially remove 11,000 vehicles from the road.

This would require the city of New York to temporarily lift its ban on unregistered taxi drivers. Currently Uber drivers have to get a license from the Taxi and Limousine Commission and complete training. Just like folks that drive cabs.

The Commuting Together system would circumvent all that training to make it more appealing to commuters hoping to make a few bucks while driving across the bridge. They wouldn't be regular Uber drivers. However, it's unlikely that New York mayor, Bill De Blasio is a fan of ride-hailing company's "generosity." He recently tried and failed to curb the amount of new Uber drivers in the city.

During his call to restrict new drivers, Uber added a fake "De Blasio" feature to its app in New York to show what the city would be like if the proposal passed.

If the city does temporarily lift its driver restrictions, after the L train repairs have been completed, it's going to be a lot tougher for New York to shut down the pilot program once commuters become accustomed to it. Plus, it won't just be commuters coming from Brooklyn that will be using the service.

Of course, in the next two years Uber could see an uptick in new, regulated drivers using Uber Pool to help commuters get from Brooklyn from Manhattan.

Newsweek

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