By MARK SULEYMANOV
Uber officials say their offer of an unlimited ride Commute Card in New York this summer was not an attempt to undercut the MTA and its MetroCard.
“Ideally, Uber can be a complement to mass transit and not a competitor,” said Matthew Wing, Uber’s chief spokesman in the northeast. “A lot of our rides, especially in the outer boroughs, end or begin one-eighth of a mile away from a subway station.”
The card was sold in July and August as part of a partnership between Uber and Gilt City, a local lifestyle site from Gilt Groupe that provides insider access to top designer labels and local services and experiences.
UberPOOL, which allows riders to share their trip with another person during commuting hours in Manhattan (Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.), gave customers the opportunity to purchase a Commute Card that permitted unlimited rides. During July and August, customers were able to purchase a two-week ($49), four-week ($79), or eight-week pass ($159).
While a four-week pass was much cheaper than an unlimited MetroCard ($116.50), it was limited to trips starting and ending Manhattan below 125th Street. Also, it was only good for weekday commuting hours and not on weekends. Critics have said it was an attempt to compete with the MTA’s transit system, but Uber denies it.
“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.We’re still smaller than the cab system.”
However, the Commute Card was intended to give New Yorkers an alternative mode of transportation, especially to the 4, 5, and 6 subway lines, among the busiest lines in the city during commuting hours.
Currently, there are no immediate plans to bring back the Commute Card promotion. However, Wing confirmed that Uber is looking to expand uberPOOL into the boroughs outside Manhattan.
“A lot of people who are out there have a greater need for some form of an affordable transit,” Wing said. “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.”
Photo: Wikimedia Commons.