Uber Opportunities


What I’m most curious to see, if the MTA goes through with any of its potential plans that would partly or completely shut down the L train between Manhattan and Brooklyn for repairs starting in late 2017, potentially for years, is not the wailing of the plaidetariat, but Uber’s inevitable response. One can hardly imagine a more remarkable test of its increasingly vocal desire to “bridge the gap” in public transit.

Uber has been fairly full-throated about it in New York in the recent past, after all: It has gleefully offered to temporarily “bridge the gap” (there’s that phrase again) in the MTA’s service with “free transfers” from the G train, and during previous L train outages, five-dollar inter-borough UberPool rides in order to “connect riders with the places, people, and businesses they care about.”

But those outages were exceedingly temporary, confined to weekends, when many of the people trying to get between Manhattan and Williamsburg were just looking to get to $1 oyster happy hours off of Metropolitan Avenue — tiny, well-defined windows of time for pitch-perfect promotional stunts. What the MTA is proposing will derail the commutes of thousands and thousands of workers — L-train ridership stands at three hundred thousand people per weekday, a number that will only grow as developers fix their gaze on Bushwick and beyond — from Williamsburg to Canarsie, possibly for years to come.


Uber’s $5 for 5 weekends zone map during the spring 2015 L train outage

What Uber is being offered now is so much more: an opportunity to put into place every quasi-mass-transit product at its disposal in order to wholly replace a highly visible, tightly circumscribed leg of mass transit, at least for a certain affluent (or aspirational) segment of its ridership. What a beautiful gap to bridge.

Photo by Matthew Rutledge