By MARK SULEYMANOV
Brooklyn commuters can use Uber’s uberPOOL service to get around the borough for less than $8 per ride for the rest of the year, the company has announced.
UberPOOL, which allows commuters to share their rides with other passengers for a smaller fare, is priced to be cheaper than most yellow cab rides.
Trips must begin and end within eight miles in Brooklyn to be eligible for the promotion. As Uber’s announcement outlined, many common trips in Brooklyn – such as going from Greenpoint to Red Hook ($7.95), Cobble Hill to Fort Greene ($7) or Bushwick to Bedford-Stuyvesant ($6) – will set riders back less than $8.
“A lot of people who are out there have a greater need for some form of an affordable transit,” said Uber’s chief spokesman in the northeast, Matthew Wing. “Especially if they’re in an area which is really far from a subway station or which isn’t connected to a good bus line. We think it’s a good alternative to help connect you to that mass transit network.”
A standard New York City cab fare starts with a $2.50 flat rate and increases based on distance traveled. According to the Taxi Fare Finder service, trips from Greenpoint to Red Hook ($30.25), Cobble Hill to Fort Greene ($14.48) or Bushwick to Bedford-Stuyvesant ($12.44) – cost more but don’t require customers to share their ride.
Uber continues its expansion as standard taxis try to expand their services to include similar options of sharing rides. Smartphone apps such as Arro, and the Brooklyn-based Bandwagon, are experimenting with customers sharing riders for smaller fares in yellow cabs – something they expect to fully implement by the end of 2016, according to The Verge.
However, Matthew Daus, former commissioner of the Taxi and Limousine Commission, told Slate last year that TLC’s attempt at shared rides in 2009 during rush hour did not work and is not a feasible method of providing cheaper fares.
“I knew right away that the stands that were being set up in well-trafficked areas were not going to work,” he said. “It’s a chicken-and-egg thing. New Yorkers want to go somewhere real quick, they don’t want to wait two seconds for another passenger, and the cab drivers don’t want to wait—time is money.”
Wing noted that most Uber trips – especially outside Manhattan – begin one-eighth of a mile from a subway station. So for the rest of the year, commuters who rely on busy subway lines in Brooklyn like the L and the G, will have an alternative to the subway.
The L Train serves 300,000 customers a day, according to MTA data. As of 2015, the G train served approximately 150,000 customers each weekday. However, both lines were damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and are in a constant state of repair.
“Ideally, Uber can be a complement to mass transit and not a competitor,” Wing said.
Over the summer, Uber offered commuters in Manhattan, for a limited time, a Commute Card that permitted unlimited rides using uberPOOL during commuting hours (Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.). Among the four price tiers, a four-week pass came ($79) came out cheaper than a monthly unlimited MetroCard ($116.50).
The expansion raised the question of whether Uber was trying to undercut the MTA.
“It’s a good thing that the market is responding,” Paul Steely White of the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives said to The Gothamist, adding that the subway’s constant issues with repairs have frustrated consumers. “But the city has a role to play in keeping this from becoming a free-for-all on our streets”
However, Uber maintains it does not compete with the MTA and that this has not changed.”
“The comparison of the number of people that use Uber compared to the Subway …it’s like an apple that shrunk in `Honey, I Shrunk the Kids’and an orange the size of the Empire State Building,” Wing said. “We’re not even in the same ballpark. They move millions of New Yorkers every day, we move tens of thousands, [sometimes] a little over 100,000 people every day.”
After selling out of Commute Cards in Manhattan, Uber’s focus was to expand uberPOOL in other boroughs with Brooklyn at the top of the list. Uber ran a test of uberPOOL in Brooklyn over Labor Day weekend last month, allowing riders to use the service for just $5 anywhere in the borough.
“We want to expand our availability and affordability of uberPOOL,” Wing said. “And then have a quicker, easier, painless, and affordable commute.”