From Omnibus to Uber—How We Get and Got— Around in NYC

Way to Go!
Way to Go!

The next time I make a list of reasons I love New York City, UBER will be at the top of the list. Activate the app—in as little as three minutes a late model, clean car with a courteous driver (who knows how to drive)  appears at the door. And when you get to where you’re going, you just get out. No need to mess with money; the fare is automatically charged to your credit card. A little more expensive than a cab, a lot more than a bus or a subway, but well worth it in my opinion.

Our mayor, however, is not as enthusiastic as I am. He attempted to limit the number of cars in the fleet last summer, but the proposal was met with such fierce public opposition that the City Council refused to take it up.  A subsequent $2 million study to determine whether the cars were the cause of increased traffic congestion showed that in fact, other factors were responsible. Face it, Mr. Mayor. Uber is here to stay. Part of the gig economy, the five-year old company with a global reach is the world’s most highly valued private company because it provides a service people want and need. On an average day, Uber takes New Yorkers on 100,000 trips.


photo_omnibusFirst there were the omnibuses that traveled a designated route, stopping to let people on and off. Then in 1832 came the horse cars, pulled by horses along smooth steel rails. They could carry more passengers than an omnibus and go faster, reaching speeds of five miles an hour!  Next were the dramatically faster elevated trains that propelled passengers 30 feet above ground toward Harlem, spitting cinders all the way. And finally, in 1904, the first subway line,the Interborough Rapid Transit Line, opened. Today we have a complex subway system that serves around six million riders on any weekday.  And of course, there are yellow cabs and buses, which are about as slow as their omnibus ancestors.


As for Uber, Travis Kalanik, the CEO, when questioned by a Wall Street Journal reporter recently, confirmed that Uber is aggressively researching the use of driverless cars. How soon would this become a reality? He wasn’t specific, but said only, “This technology is coming. So then the question for us is, does Uber want to be a part of the future or are we going to resist the future like maybe the taxi industry before us?”

As unlikely as it seems, I’m pretty sure it will happen because I can remember when the idea of everybody walking around with their own phones seemed just as ridiculous.



2 thoughts on “From Omnibus to Uber—How We Get and Got— Around in NYC

  1. The city of Pittsburgh has worked to make our city Uber-friendly. Younger, technology-savvy Millennials, want to work and live in cities that support new concepts such as Uber. Embrace the future.


    1. I agree; this is progress! I know the Millennials love it, but it’s great for us seniors too! No standing in the cold wondering if a cab is going to appear in time for you to make your appointment or the start of the show. No skirmishes at curbside fighting for a cab. No rude drivers (at least I have not yet encountered any). I always ask them about their experience with Uber and to a man (no women yet) they say they like driving for Uber because they are their own boss. If they are under the weather or want to go to their kid’s activities, they don’t work. If they need more money, they work more. ‘win. Win, I say.


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