Monday, July 7th, 2014

The Uber Bomb Detonates in New York

Have you been in a New York cab recently? Sometimes prompted but more often not, drivers will want to talk to you about Uber. If you're in a yellow cab or a livery car, you will hear about Uber the virus, Uber the interloper, Uber the merciless invader; if you're in an Uber cab, or an Uber-adjacent green taxi, you'll hear about Uber the inevitable, Uber the strange, Uber the great (for now). It's been a boom time for untethered drivers—a magical stretch during which they could take advantage of high fares, high demand, and low barriers to entry all at once. It was acknowledged, rarely explicitly, that the arrangement felt strange and temporary—the product of an imbalance, not a new status quo.

This has been imagined in the press as a battle between unregulated drivers and their super-regulated counterparts. But that's not it at all! This was, and is, and will be until Uber's billion dollars either runs out or multiplies itself, Uber against the world. Look what they did today:

We just dropped uberX fares by 20%, making it cheaper than a New York City taxi. From Brooklyn to the Bronx, and everywhere in between, uberX is now the most affordable ride in the city.

Haha, first of all, "the most affordable ride in the city" that is in a car, driven by another human, for your individual transportation, maybe. Uber's style is too consistent for its announcement post to be called tonedeaf; it's a company that wears its fuck-you, get-mine philosophy on its sleeve. Its price examples have riders going from Williamsburg to the East Village, from Grand Central to the Financial District, from Nolita—Nolita!—to Lincoln Center. From your LOFT to FASHION WEEK, from the TRADING DESK to THE TRAIN TO YOUR LARGE DISTANT HOME, from your STEEL RESIDENTIAL ARCOLOGY to your TASTING MENU, Uber will save you two dollars.

Here are some people who will be happy about this: Uber riders. Here are some people who will be upset about this: Anyone who drives a car professionally in New York, by far America's most cab-dense city. When Uber has dropped prices like this elsewhere, it has temporarily made up the difference for drivers. Not here! The volume is too high, the cost too great. What are all the new Uber drivers, with their freshly depreciated new Uber-financed rides, supposed to do now that their per-ride take has just been slashed by a fifth? That the conditions that lured them to this odd new company have changed? They mustn't complain, else their Uber star rating fall by a star and they get purged from the system. So they'll just keep driving, and we'll keep riding, until one day we find ourselves standing on the street corner with our arms up, phones dead, hailing ghosts.

10 Comments / Post A Comment

holdup!holdmyphone! (#274,038)

IMO, taxi service should be treated as public transportation, and should be subsidized similarly to transit. it's a question of equity in mobility and accessibility, really. who takes a taxi? someone who doesn't have access to a car, and who also doesn't have a workable transit option. basically, someone who is poor. (also sometimes, lazy people, but there are worse things to spend money on than a laziness subsidy. like wars, and sports stadiums.) in new york, where distances between places are relatively short, and there are buses and subways (which i hear are pretty dope), maybe the subsidy should be lower. in los angeles, where transit sucks and distances are long, the subsidy should be higher. if a municipality could find a dispatch network to work with that is less bummy than a taxi company and less rapacious than our old friend uber, this could be a great opportunity for a…..PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP.

grendan (#269,504)

@holdup!holdmyphone! "who takes a taxi? … basically, someone who is poor."

funny joke

John Herrman (#8,286)

@grendan no I mean, this is the demand that a lot of the livery services answer! Forced by financial circumstances to live far from public transit, which inflates property prices, and therefore occasionally required to pay for cars.

grendan (#269,504)

@John Herrman I wonder how many riders SHADOW TRANSIT [], which would seem to fill that very need, accounts for as opposed to livery services?

Poubelle (#214,283)

@grendan When I was flat broke & working a shitty restaurant job, I worked Sundays & holidays, when the bus schedule sucked. If I worked breakfast shifts, I was leaving so early the buses didn't run that often, if I worked nights, I got off so late the route that actually went near my apartment had quit running, so I was stuck walking about a half mile late at night (not an enticing prospect when you're young & female & physically tiny, in any neighborhood, and I certainly wasn't in one of the safest–though I personally worried far more about a mugger getting my cash tips & irreplaceable phone than getting assaulted) or, you know, taking a cab and making it home in one piece.

And when the bus was late on my way to work, well, at least I would earn more than the cab fare during my shift and get to keep my job.

But yeah, funny joke.

Dilworth (#525)

@holdup!holdmyphone! "who takes a taxi? … basically, someone who is poor."

this is actually sometimes true, though definitely not in NY.

Where I grew up in North Carolina in the 1970's the bus system was the exclusive province of poor blacks as was a ragtag fleet of taxis– all 60's era sedans with awesome handpainted lettering promising the rider 'radio-dispatched service' and 'air conditioning'.

The grocery stores and the shopping mall, which were a long way indeed from the black side of town had a phone installed next to the bustop that dialed directly to the dispatcher. Your choice was to wait in the scorching heat for a bus that seemed to never come, or spend more cash to a taxi. My family of course had more than one car at our disposal. I doubt anyone I know ever took the City bus or rode in a taxi. That was 'not for us'

It's an illegal service!

jack57hamm (#281,402)

I love this post

It'sAllGood (#282,168)

Who wrote this trash/propaganda? The corrupt taxi union of New York City? Uber works MUCH better than taxis. Denying that is just being delusional. Nice try.

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